He spent the season rehabbing following surgery, and although he describes the journey thus far as a grind, he has gradually reached one milestone, moved onto another, and another, drawing encouragement with each step forward.
“I got it pretty good, but what can you do,” he says of his injury. “I’m grinding and chipping away. … I can do a lot of things now. Running, jumping. My whole rehab, every step has been a big step. Now it’s a matter of strengthening it back to the point where it was.”
Bernstine said he won’t be on the field when the team’s offseason workouts begin on April 15 or when OTAs get underway on May 20. Instead, he and fellow rehabbing teammates, including quarterback Robert Griffin III and safety Brandon Meriweather will continue to work separately with the team’s trainers and strength coaches.
Initially, Bernstine rehabbed alongside nose tackle Chris Neild and running back Tristan Davis, who both suffered season-ending knee injuries in the preseason. Meriweather joined them later in the year after tearing his ACL in Week 11, and then Griffin joined their fraternity after tearing his ACL, LCL and meniscus in the season-ending playoff loss to Seattle.
“My injury was a little more severe than theirs, so my timeline’s been a little different,” Bernstine said. “We’re all on our own timelines, but it’s great to have guys in there with you. We all talk to each other, push each other. It’s brought us closer together because we’ve been training together all offseason. We didn’t go home. So, we go to dinner, movies or bowling together.”
Bernstine said he also has drawn support from his family, notably his mother, grandmother and uncle, Rod Bernstine, who played running back and tight end for the Chargers and Broncos from 1987 to 1995.
“They could have 10 safeties in there, and I’d still be just as motivated. I want to get out there and help my team in whatever way I can,” Bernstine said.
Bernstine believes that although he didn’t play outside of the preseason and the season opener, he already has a better understanding of the team’s defense and his responsibilities because he continued to attend defensive meetings throughout the season. He also picks the brain of his veteran teammates.
“All that’s going to help once I’m back out there,” Bernstine said. “But Step 1 is getting out on the field, and my goal is to be back when the season starts.”
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