Terrel Bernard ready to continue his rise for Buffalo Bills


Staff member

If the precision of NFL athletes was ever in doubt, a recent press conference with Terrel Bernard provided some clarity.

The Buffalo Bills’ middle linebacker played last season at 225 pounds, but said he worked this offseason to add some weight. So, how much does he weigh now?

“I came back around 226, 227,” he said last month as the Bills started voluntary offseason workouts. “I’m working out around there right now, and seeing how I feel with that.”

Can a pound or two really make a difference?

“Sometimes there is, yeah. I think, for me, it is,” Bernard said. “When I’m a little bit heavier, I feel a little stronger. It doesn’t really affect my speed as much or my quickness as much, but I do feel a little bit stronger. If I can keep that weight on throughout the whole year, I’d be happy with that.”

That attention to detail goes a long way toward explaining how Bernard was able to take such a massive leap during his second professional season. After playing just 110 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2022, Bernard earned the starting middle linebacker job going into 2023 after the departure of Tremaine Edmunds. Bernard responded with a monster season, playing nearly 1,000 defensive snaps and recording 143 tackles, three interceptions, nine quarterback hits, 6.5 sacks, five passes defended and three fumble recoveries.

His emergence was one of the more promising developments of the entire 2023 season.

“I spent a lot of time in the offseason last year really studying and trying to refine my game and understand the nuances of the defense,” Bernard said. “I felt like that was a huge part of why I was able to come back and have a little bit of an edge mentally, just being prepared to go out there and do what I do physically. I think, overall, just the time that you get away from the building to do your own thing and focus on things that you need to focus on, by the time you get back, I feel like you’re 10 steps ahead of where you started out.”

An ankle injury kept Bernard out of the Bills’ divisional round playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Could that result have been different if he were in the lineup? It is a question worth pondering, and it has guided Bernard’s offseason to this point. Although his injury did not require surgery, he’s focused his training on doing as many preventative measures as possible.

“I think you always go into an offseason trying to get bigger, faster and stronger. A huge thing that I kind of incorporated this offseason was more injury prevention stuff, trying to keep my ankles healthy, my knees healthy, my shoulders,” he said. “That’s little exercises – 15, 20 minutes here or there, just little things that I can tack on and add on that kind of bulletproofs you for an NFL season.”

Bernard’s injury has completely healed, and he is taking part in voluntary workouts. He enters his third NFL season in a much different spot than he was a year ago. In May 2023, Bernard reported for organized team activities as part of a group hoping to replace Edmunds. He won the job despite missing the preseason with a hamstring injury. His production showed that to be a wise decision by the Bills’ coaching staff.

Now, Bernard will be expected to take on a larger leadership role after so many team captains departed the team this year.
“It’s tough losing anybody, especially guys like that who have been here for a long time and really made this place what it is now and set a standard for how we are and how we operate,” he said. “It’s something I’ve put a lot of effort and a lot of time into this offseason, was preparing to take that next step and put myself out there and try to be one of the guys who is helping lead this team. Doing everything that I can to help to help everybody around me.”

Asked what that looks like, Bernard said it comes down to holding both himself and his teammates to a certain standard – not only as a player, but as a man, teammate and person.

“As you hold yourself to a standard and hold yourself accountable, other guys around you tend to follow that lead,” he said.

As he prepared for the 2023 season, Bernard spent countless hours with both linebackers coach Bobby Babich and head coach Sean McDermott.

“Bobby really in the classroom understanding the scheme of things and how we want to get things done, and then extra meetings going upstairs with Sean and detailing how he sees me fitting in the position and how he sees me leading the guys around me or how he sees me making certain checks and calls,” Bernard said. “I think that was a huge part in my play last year was having both of them really tell me exactly what they wanted and exactly what they needed from me.

“The nuances of the defense, I feel like spending that time with both of them, it really helped my understanding of, not just my position, but the guys around me, as well, and what they wanted to get out of certain calls or certain situations. I feel like each week I got closer and closer and closer to where I wanted to be. I was continuing to grow and get better throughout the season, and I plan to try and do that now.”