The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' backfield will be down a running back for the playoff stretch drive, as ninth-year veteran Giovani Bernard was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Bernard suffered a hip injury during the Buccaneers' Week 14 win over the Buffalo Bills.
The Buccaneers also made a pair of moves on the practice squad, signing punter Sterling Hofrichter and releasing wide receiver John Hurst.
Bernard played seven snaps on Sunday before leaving the game and has been in on 146 offensive plays this season, primarily serving as a third-down back. He has run eight times for 58 yards and caught 23 passes for another 123 yards and three touchdowns.
Leonard Fournette has taken over as the team's lead running back, with Ronald Jones occasionally spelling him as a ballcarrier. Bernard is a talented pass-catcher out of the backfield but Fournette has taken on a big role in the passing game this season, leading all NFL running backs with 62 receptions. With Bernard out of commission, second-year man Ke'Shawn Vaughn could possibly see a bit more action. Vaughn has just eight carries for 31 yards and has not been targeted in the passing game, though he has played extensively on special teams when active.
This is Bernard's first season with the Buccaneers after he played his first eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Originally a second-round draft pick in 2013, Bernard has played in 127 games with 30 starts and has recorded 3,755 yards and 22 touchdowns on 929 career carries. One of the NFL's most productive pass-catching backs during his Bengals tenure, he has racked up 365 career receptions for 2,990 yards and 14 scores.
Hofrichter was Atlanta's punter last season after the Falcons drafted him out of Syracuse in the seventh round. He averaged 42.5 yards on 56 punts and also handled 22 kickoffs, getting a touchback on 16 of them. He went back to training camp with the Falcons this past summer but was released near the end of August.
Hurst has had two different stints on Tampa Bay's practice squad this year. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Buccaneers in 2020 after playing his college ball at West Georgia.