Bernard Pierce thankful to be with Jags after DUI arrest, Ravens release

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars running back Bernard Pierce isn't shying away from talking about his DUI arrest and everything that has happened since. He explains what happened, takes responsibility, and calls it the biggest mistake of his life.

He also says he understands why the Baltimore Ravens released him just hours after the incident. But he's also grateful that he's been handed a second chance to keep a once-promising career afloat.

"I know I have to work. No more messing up. It's game time now. It's real, so coming in here, do what I have to do and just hopefully stay here."
Bernard Pierce

"It just makes me hungry, honestly," Pierce said of the Jaguars' decision to claim him off waivers March 19, one day after he was arrested in Baltimore County. "I know I have to work. No more messing up. It's game time now. It's real, so coming in here, do what I have to do and just hopefully stay here."

He is in Jacksonville because of the Ravens' recently-instituted zero-tolerance policy for off-field problems, brought about because of Ray Rice's domestic violence incident. He was the third Ravens player to be dismissed after an offseason arrest.

Pierce was arrested at 2 a.m. March 18 after he failed a field sobriety test. He was charged with driving under the influence, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. He said he had been out with friends but didn't admit to having too much to drink. He was cut later that day.

"As many offseason issues that we had, I really wasn't that surprised, but I didn't think that it was going to be a phone call and that was going to be it," Pierce said. "We [the Ravens] definitely started a zero-tolerance policy, and that being said, I knew that that could be it for me, but things happen and one door closes and another opportunity opens."

Pierce said his legal case is still pending and he expects to be put into the NFL's substance abuse program. Neither he nor the Jaguars have received news of any possible suspension.

Pierce had a talk with coach Gus Bradley about the arrest shortly after the Jaguars claimed him off waivers.

"Gus asked for a brief description and explanation of what happened," Pierce said. "I told him and that was it, and he moved on.

"... He just said, 'Make sure that you make wiser decisions in the future,' and 'glad to have you here.'"

It's a low-risk move for the Jaguars, who are trying to improve a running game that has been among the league's worst the past three seasons.

Toby Gerhart, signed last March to a three-year, $10.5 million contract, struggled because of ankle and rib injuries and ran for just 326 yards and averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. Denard Robinson ended up leading the Jaguars in rushing (582 yards), but he missed the final three games with a foot injury. The offensive line, which started two rookies and a second-year left tackle coming off a fractured ankle, struggled to consistently open holes, as well.

Pierce will be given a chance to compete for playing time with Gerhart, Robinson, 2014 seventh-round pick Storm Johnson and whichever back the Jaguars take in the draft. Much like the Jaguars, Pierce has had success in the past but has struggled since.

The 23-year-old Pierce had his best season with the Ravens as a rookie in 2012, when he rushed for 532 yards in their Super Bowl-winning season. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry during the regular season and topped that in the playoffs, averaging 5.2 yards in four games. He ran for 202 yards on 39 carries, including 103 yards in a wild-card victory over Indianapolis.

Since then, however, Pierce has struggled because of inconsistency and a long list of injuries: back, ankle, knee, shoulder, thigh, toe and concussion. He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in 2013, but all of the Ravens' backs did behind an offensive line that played poorly. He was slightly better in 2014 -- 3.9 yards per carry -- but had a career-low 93 attempts. With Ray Rice suspended, Pierce was supposed to split carries with Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but he was benched for fumbling in the season opener and Forsett became the Ravens' feature back.

Pierce said he's not putting any expectations on himself. All he wants to do is make the team and contribute any way he can.

"Opportunity is what you make it, so I just plan to come here, work hard and find a spot on the roster," he said. "I'm perfectly fine with a rotation, especially this day and age. One back [system], I really don't think can do it like that."