Cards Hope to Cash in on Others' Oversights

At every possible turn, the Arizona Cardinals are meeting with a compact back who is already familiar with the draft process. He's a step-up-to-the-plate type of player who wants to hear his name mentioned with the top prospects in the draft. He has a lot to overcome, but he leaves everything between the lines and is ready to prove it to the Cards.

The Cardinals are making the rounds with running back Yvenson Bernard of Oregon State. They met with the 5'9", 205-pound back at the Hula Bowl, the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. Bernard counts his blessings that he made it to Mobile, Ala., to meet with the Cardinals.

"I went in there without any practice," said Bernard, who was chosen as an injury alternate. "I think I did alright. The first snap was my first action. I was just chilling at home when I got the call that they needed another back."

The Cardinals need a back to counter Edgerrin James' pedestrian 3.8 ypc, but Bernard lacks the speed of other top candidates. At the Combine, his fastest 40 time was a 4.55. He dropped that to a 4.47 at his Pro Day on March 14.

Bernard is the first to say that speed isn't his forte, but he still has a lot to offer.

"I know I'm not a burner," Bernard said. "I'm one of those guys who are quick and shifty. That's my game. My game is not 4.39."

Size is also a question surrounding Bernard's stock, but the same goes for a lot of the top backs in this year's class.

"Coming to the Combine kind of made me confident," Bernard said. "I didn't see that many guys who are much bigger than me."

With stature aside, Bernard still has to live up to past injuries that are trying to pull him down. He had arthroscopic surgery toward the end of his senior season, but came back 38 days later to play in the Emerald Bowl, where he ran 38 times for 177 yards.

"I was worried that I wasn't going to make it, there was a weight off my shoulders to play [in Emerald Bowl]," Bernard said. "Two more bowl games (Senior Bowl and Hula Bowl), and it's not a factor any more. I am pretty sure that teams noticed that I can come back from injury, but it's likely in the back of their heads."

What Bernard wants teams to think about is his dedication to the sport.

"I'm a team player," Bernard said. "I won't be a problem. I will help out teammates...I can do it all, block, catch, do it all."

Bernard proved he could catch well enough to be drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 30th round of the 2003 Major League Baseball draft. However, his passion lies on the gridiron.

"My heart is in football. Baseball ain't cutting it for me," he said.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.


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