New Bucs running back Giovani Bernard spoke with the media for the first time since joining the Super Bowl champs, revealing why he chose to play for the Bucs over other suitors. As fate would have it, a player every Bucs fan wanted in Tampa Bay this offseason actually led Bernard to his new home down south.
Tom Brady’s former Patriots’ teammate James White, who many Bucs fans wanted to see join his old quarterback in Tampa Bay this offseason, actually sold Bernard on the idea of playing for the Bucs. Bernard and White are good friends since playing football together in high school, with the newly re-signed Patriots running back helping advise Bernard’s decision to choose the pewter and red this spring.
“That’s a very close friend of mine,” Bernard said of White. “I grew up with James over in Fort Lauderdale at St. Thomas Aquinas High School so I have a very close relationship with him. Obviously I talked to him when I was picking the team I wanted to go to. He had nothing but great things to say about Tom, just his work ethic and everybody knows that, so, for me it was a no brainer.”
After spending the last few years on losing teams with the Cincinnati Bengals, Bernard was also inspired by the Bucs’ relentless pursuit to go for two straight even after accomplishing their goal last season.
“You can already feel the difference and just that atmosphere as soon as I walked into the building,” Bernard said. “Whether that’s facility stuff or whether that’s the cooks or whether that’s the guys in the training room…everybody here. You can tell there’s an excitement here, it’s still buzzing. Obviously [they] won the Super Bowl last year, but you can kind of tell nobody is letting their guard down. Everybody’s excited for the next run and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Bernard has been to the postseason twice in his career, but has yet to win a playoff game and hasn’t played in one in over five years. He admitted that the losing weighed on him, factoring heavily into his decision to play with a winning team.
“We played really well at times, just things happened, injuries happened,” Bernard said. “That’s part of football, that’s part of the NFL, but for me it just takes a toll after awhile. It is what it is, but I’m here, I’m excited to be a part of this journey. I’m just really thrilled to be here and to help where I can. And I know that these guys have already done it without my help whatsoever, so wherever I can do something else, I just want to be that guy that these guys can count on to come help.”
That’s why setting foot here in Tampa was so important to him. He’s coming to a team that has proven success with a Super Bowl championship, and yet remains hungry for another.
“The biggest pitch for me was the opportunity to be a part of something that I feel like they’re continuing to build even though they’ve already won the Super Bowl,” Bernard said. “I still felt that there was something, that they were still trying to show or prove or whatever it may have been, even just the little phone calls that I was able to have, it just felt like that these guys are still trying to go do something great, and they’ve already won it. That to me was a little bit of a difference from the other teams I was talking with.”
It’s a busy backfield for the Bucs’ running backs now with Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Bernard. The latter will have his role, which should be an important one given Brady’s utilization of running backs in the passing game. But Bernard’s decision to sign with Tampa Bay was influenced more by the culture that the Bucs are establishing, rather than his playing time.
“It wasn’t so much the role I would take on that I was attracted to,” Bernard said. “I think for me, it was about the culture that the coach was trying to build, and the players in the locker room. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s really going to [drive] you throughout the season. The roles, yeah, that’s part of the decision, but I think the biggest factor for me was that I saw what they’re continuing to try to build here in Tampa.”