In a Sunday night game at Arizona on his 24th birthday, he set the franchise record for receiving yards by a running back 128 on eight receptions, surpassing the previous mark of 119 set by Brandon Bennett in 1998.
Bernard’s 56 receptions as a rookie set the franchise record for catches by a running back, and the 514 yards he had that year remain his season high. His 1,209 yards from scrimmage that year were the second most by a rookie in team history behind running back Corey Dillon’s 1,388 in 1997.
The Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill in the second round the following spring, and Bernard and Hill have teamed to form one of the top tailback duos in the league the past two seasons, combing for 1,524 rushing yards and 551 receiving yards last year.
Despite his diminutive size at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, Bernard has also drawn praise from his coaches and teammates for his toughness and ability to pick up the blitz.
“The guy’s tough, man,” former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said of Bernard last season. “It’s what I saw when we were drafting him. It’s what I saw talking to him. It’s what I saw in how he played the game, how passionate he is about the game. He doesn’t like to make mistakes. He loves to make plays, and it’s important to him.”
USA Today is reporting the extension is worth $15.5 million. Bernard was scheduled to make $1.6 million this season, which means the new deal will pay him north of $6 million per year.
Bernard, who was entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract, won’t be 25 until November, which means he will only be 28 by the time the extension ends following the 2019 season.
“It’s great to be able to extend our commitment with Gio,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “It’s all a part of what I keep saying — draft the right players, develop them, and retain them. We’re excited about the great things Gio will continue to add to our offense.”