Bernard: 'I Feel Great'

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Gio Bernard enthralled fans for two quarters in Saturday's 62-0 win over Elon before putting that same group on panic alert when he left the game with an undisclosed injury. The sophomore tailback alleviated those concerns on Monday.

"I feel good; I feel great," Bernard said. "Just a little precautionary kind of thing. I feel good. I'm ready to go for this week."

The Davie, Fla. native told reporters that he doesn't expect any precautionary limitations during practice this week as North Carolina gears up for its first ACC contest of the season at Wake Forest on Saturday.

Bernard left the game late in the second quarter, headed to the locker room and did not return to the sideline. The Tar Heel Sports Network reported that the All-ACC running back had experienced discomfort in his left knee.

He declined to discuss his injury or how it happened on Monday.

Head coach Larry Fedora indicated after the game on Saturday afternoon that Bernard could have returned to the game, but that there was no reason to put him back in. Despite wanting to return, Bernard understood the decision.

"Yeah, as a football player you always want to be on the field with your teammates," Bernard said. "So [Fedora] was just holding me back. For me, I'm always one wanting to be on the field. It's just one of those things. Coach knows best."

Fedora was asked on Monday if he planned on lightening Bernard's work load to avoid future injuries.

"I don't think so," Fedora said. "Lighten his load? How many times did he carry the ball? Nine? Nah, 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."

On Saturday, Bernard rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, caught two passes for 10 yards and a touchdown and returned two punts for 100 yards and a touchdown. He equaled his career high with three touchdowns and totaled 203 all-purpose yards.

Prior to his 70-yard punt return for touchdown, Fedora pulled him to the side and joked: "You can take this back if you want."

Small sample size notwithstanding, Bernard is tied for first nationally in scoring (18) and ranks second nationally in punt return average (50.0) and 20th in all-purpose yardage (203.0).

Bernard rushed 27 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns while also catching three passes for 21 yards and a touchdown in North Carolina's 49-24 victory over Wake Forest last season.

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