COMMENTARY | Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard has now been through five rookie minicamp practices, nine OTA workouts and three mandatory minicamp practices. During that span he has impressed and intrigued both teammates and coaches alike.
Bernard is figured to be a shifty, change-of-pace back in Cincinnati's system. However, he does not seem to act like one. During an interview with Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Bernard spoke of the early workouts.
"I like pads. I don't like shorts. It's not really football. It's like seven-on-seven, almost."
That statement is not one you would be likely to hear from any back that does not run between the tackles.
Bernard is larger than most fans realize -- weighing in at a solid 208 pounds -- and has the tenacity to get the job done through the interior of the line as well as on the edge. This could turn him into a very complete back at the NFL level sooner rather than later.
Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson had plenty to say about the impressiveness of Bernard lately.
"He's everything I thought he would be. He has extreme quickness, suddenness. He has top-end speed. He has change of direction."
"One of the reasons I stood up for him, I think he'll churn out those tough yards. I don't think he shies away from that. He's 208 pounds. I think a lot of people think he can't do it. I'm not ready to say that. I don't see that. We obviously know he's not afraid to run between the tackles."
That is the kind of high praise that Bernard has been garnering from the Bengals' staff. However, they are not the only ones that have been impressed with his workouts lately. Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins had plenty of praise for the first-year back as well.
"He's got the lateral quickness. He's smart. He knows his stuff. He works his butt off. He's elusive. He's an exciting player. You can see it the first time you see him. He'll be exciting to watch."
Not only is Bernard this exciting as a ball-carrier out of the backfield, he is just as exciting as a receiver. Jackson was equally impressed with this part of Bernard's game and spoke about how he has looked thus far.
"He's so natural catching the ball. He can catch it like a receiver. I knew he could catch it really well, but I wouldn't be surprised if he could go out there and line up outside and catch balls like some other guys can because he has that skill set."
It sounds as though the Bengals are ready to utilize Bernard in the same frequency as a Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush. Both of these backs are so versatile and can move around the field like a chess piece to create mismatches.
If Bernard does split out like a receiver in the Bengals offense this year, it will only increase his touches.
After the draft, it looked as though the Bengals left with a solid, change-of-pace back. Now it looks as though they have a back that can perform at a high level in all phases of the offense.
The more Bernard continues to impress the coaching staff, the more he will earn enough trust to handle a larger workload. At some point in the 2013 season, it is possible that he could begin to see more touches than incumbent starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
With Bernard's impressive -- and growing -- skill set and an increased amount of touches possibly headed his way in 2013, this Bengals rookie rusher could be destined for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Sean O'Donnell is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the co-host of the Bengals Central podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network. You can follow him on Twitter: @SeanODonnellNFL
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