In his rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals, running back Giovani Bernard generated a lot of excitement each time he touched the ball. As he darted about with either a carry or a reception, Bernard often looked a threat to break free on those quick feet of his.
So you can hardly blame the Bengals coaching staff for wanting to get the ball to him more — he had 170 rushing attempts and 56 receptions, for 1,209 total yards. But head coach Marvin Lewis doesn’t to overwork him.
"The key thing with Gio all year long was to try not to wear him out and get him wore out,” Lewis said, as reported by Cincinnati.com. “That is what I would have to caution the coaches all the time. They kept pushing to have Gio be in there more and more and more, but I kept cautioning you are shooting for a 20-game season. Make sure he is not nicked up and can be what we need for those 20 weeks. As the season went on, he came through that first part he began to get more and more opportunity, no doubt."
BenJarvus Green-Ellis got more carries overall, with 220. Over the last several regular-season games, however, their shares of the running game evened out more. Excepting the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when Green-Ellis had just four carries, he had 40 attempts in three games to finish the year and Bernard had 38.
Lewis sees a model for Bernard’s progression in the Ravens’ Ray Rice, another short (Bernard is 5 feet 9), quick runner who also gets plenty of touches in the passing game.
"I think for young guys that are conscientious guys that get a chance to play as a rookie, after that first season, you can talk to them all, they [sigh] it's over,” Lewis said. “… They get an opportunity to take that sigh of relief then mature and grow. I witnessed it in Ray Rice since his rookie year in '09 in Baltimore then from '09 to '10 the difference in him. We are hoping Gio can take those same steps."