UNC head coach Larry Fedora and several players met with the media on Monday which included running back Gio Bernard. The question of Bernard's early departure from Saturday's game came up(natch) and Bernard said there was nothing to worry about.
So much for the Giovani Bernard injury watch. Bernard, the North Carolina sophomore running back, amassed 203 all-purpose yards during the Tar Heels’ 62-0 victory against Elon on Saturday but left the game not long before halftime with an apparent knee injury.
At least, that’s how it was described on the Tar Heels’ radio broadcast. Bernard wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of his injury on Monday, but assured reporters that he feels fine and that he’s over whatever it is that forced him out of the game on Saturday.
“I feel good, I feel great,” he said. “[It was] just a little precautionary kind of thing – I feel good.”
Bernard decline to give specifics on what exactly caused him to be pulled from game against Elon. That would be consistent with Fedora's policy on injury news. It was initially reported that Bernard's left knee had "discomfort" but whatever it was apparently is not impacting him now.
In light of the injury Fedora was asked if they would lighten Bernard's load going forward to which Fedora basically responded there wasn't much of a load.
“I don’t think so. Lightening his load? How many times did he carry the ball? Nine? No, we’re not going to lighten it I promise you. We’re going to load him up. I want him to touch the ball as many times as possible. We’ll be smart, but if you touch the ball nine times and do what you did just think if you get it 18. We won’t ride him like a mule or anything, but we’ll make sure he gets the touches he deserves.”
My concern is using Bernard on punt returns since that increases the risk of injury. Then again, injuries can come in any number of running plays from scrimmage. I haven't calculated the odds, but I would imagine some sort of injury is more likely to occur on an offensive play than a punt return. There are just more carries and more situations of Bernard running into a scrum and getting his body twisted this way or that. Fedora's reasoning for using Bernard on punt return is simple: He's a stud athlete who can make good things happen. Following the logic, the more Bernard touches the football, the more good things will happen for UNC. That was certainly the case on Saturday and while Fedora says he doesn't plan to run Bernard to death, I imagine he will see the ball more than nine times versus Wake Forest on Saturday.