Bernard left the season-opening win over Elon in the second quarter with an apparent left knee injury. He was listed as UNC’s starter on last Monday’s depth chart and was not included on the school’s injury report on Thursday, prompting fans and media members to believe that he would play against Wake Forest.
Head coach Larry Fedora told reporters following the loss on Saturday that the training staff worked Bernard out during pregame warmups and that the injury “just didn’t feel right for him.”
Fedora provided another update during his press conference on Monday.
“Yesterday [Bernard] moved around really well and said he felt good, so we’ll see tomorrow when he gets out on the field,” Fedora said. “But he felt good yesterday, I know that, moving around. He did everything everybody else did.”
Bernard told reporters last Monday that he felt great and didn’t expect to be limited in practice during the week. When asked if Bernard had suffered a setback during the week or was just being overly optimistic with his comments, Fedora replied, “I think maybe a little of both.”
“He wants to get out there,” he continued. “He wants to be out there every snap. It’s like during camp. You might have the threes out there and then all of a sudden you see him out there with them. And I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I want to play, I want to get another rep.’
“That’s just him. He wants to be out there. I know every time I talk to him, he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready, I’m ready.’ And before the game, he just didn’t feel right. So I didn’t want to put him in that situation.”
Bernard totaled 203 all-purpose yards on 13 touches in North Carolina’s 62-0 rout of Elon. Even so, it’s difficult to quantify how significant his absence was in the Tar Heels’ ACC opener.
“It’s hard to say how much we missed him,” Fedora said. “If he’s not on the field, it’s obvious we missed him.”
A.J. Blue (19 rushes, 106 yards, TD) and Romar Morris (14 rushes, 70 yards, TD) assumed Bernard’s role at running back against Wake Forest, while walk-on wide receiver Roy Smith (3 returns, 28 yards) handled the punt return duties.
“Both of those running backs did a really nice job,” Fedora said. “It may have just been more of a comfort with guys mentally than anything. But I don’t know. I sat there watching the film wondering would he have done something different. Who knows?”
Louisville marks the first of three straight nonconference opponents for North Carolina, meaning that the school won’t have to release an ACC-suggested injury report again until Thursday, Oct. 4 in preparation for the Virginia Tech contest on Oct. 6. UNC did not release an injury report prior to its game against Elon.
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