It has been quite a week for Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard as the veteran played a part in a botched fake punt attempt against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. Now, Bernard’s future with the Bucs may be in doubt as the team will need an extra roster spot if Deven Thompkins keeps hold of his return responsibilities moving forward.
“One more note on Gio Bernard: If Deven Thompkins is the Bucs’ returner moving forward, he’s out of elevations and will need to be added to the 53 this week,” Fox Sports’ Greg Auman tweeted on December 19, 2022. “That means making a move to make room for him, and cutting Bernard unfortunately would be one of the logical options.”
Bernard has had a limited impact on this season as the veteran dealt with injuries, playing in just five games and notching one carry through Week 15. Even if the Buccaneers opt to keep Bernard on the roster for the remainder of the season, the running back’s future with the team remains in doubt. Bernard signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Buccaneers last offseason and will be a free agent in 2023.
Bowles on Botched Fake Punt Attempt: ‘We Missed the Ball’
Tampa Bay initially signed Bernard in 2020 with hopes the veteran could make a significant impact as Tom Brady’s preferred passing back option. Bernard has nine carries for 58 yards along with 23 receptions for 123 yards over his two seasons with the Bucs.
The emergence of rookie running back Rachaad White likely makes Bernard expendable heading into next season. Leonard Fournette still has another two seasons remaining on his three-year, $21 million deal.
The Buccaneers attempted to run a fake punt on their own 25-yard line against the Bengals, but Bernard mishandled the ball while appearing surprised that the team was running the play. Bernard has since gone viral for an awkward locker room exchange with reporters which was not exactly the best look for the media. Head coach Todd Bowles hinted that it was a blown play by Bernard noting that the running back “could have ran for four or five yards” to pick up the first down.
“It was fourth and one, they had a front that we could take advantage of,” Bowles said during his December 18 postgame press conference. “It was blocked well. We could have ran for four or five yards. We missed the ball.”
Is Bowles Job Safe for 2023?
Changes are coming for the Buccaneers this offseason, but it remains to be seen how significant these moves will be given the team’s inconsistent season. All eyes will once again be on Tom Brady who will be a free agent in 2023. Brady could opt to retire for good, but there is also the threat of the legendary quarterback leaving for another franchise.
There is plenty of frustration among fans over the Buccaneers coaching staff, but it would be a surprise if the team moves on from Bowles given the team signed the head coach to a new five-year deal last offseason. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported that Bowles does not appear to be on “shaky ground” but changes could come to other parts of the coaching staff.
“I do not get the sense that the two other disappointing coaches in the NFC South, Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles and New Orleans’ Dennis Allen, are on shaky ground, but it wouldn’t surprise me if both of them (assuming they’re kept) made the kinds of coaching staff changes they didn’t make when they ascended to their posts last offseason,” Graziano wrote on December 14. “The Tampa situation is especially interesting because of all the unknowns around Tom Brady.
“If he decides he wants to stay in Tampa (and they decide they want to keep him), he could have some input in what happens with the offensive coaching staff. If he retires or decides to play elsewhere, the decisions about how to build the offense could be much different, depending on whom the Bucs get to play quarterback.”