IRVING, Texas – When guard Mackenzy Bernadeau lines up for Dallas this Sunday, he'll have the chance to show the Panthers what they're missing. Having played his first four years in Carolina, he only received 25 starts, including last season when he started only one game for the Panthers.
When he became a free agent, the Cowboys pursued him in order to create competition and depth at the guard and center spots. The Panthers chose to let Bernadeau leave without putting up much of a fight.
Panthers' coach Ron Rivera claimed on Wednesday that the decision to part ways with the 6-4, 308-pound guard was not as easy as it seemed.
"We really liked Mackenzy," Rivera said. "We really did. We thought he was a valuable player for us. We thought he was a solid guy that gave us a center/guard combination."
According to Rivera, the decision was solely a financial one, although the Panthers did use a second-round pick (40th overall) to select Amini Silatolu, who is starting at left guard this year.
"We would have liked to have kept him," Rivera said of Bernadeau. "But obviously Dallas stepped up."
Bernadeau agrees that the move from Carolina to Dallas did not involve any hard feelings. Dallas simply made the best offer and becoming a Cowboy was a business decision.
"That's exactly what it was," Bernadeau said. "Ron Rivera's a great coach. They've got a great staff over there. They have a lot of great players over there. There're things that don't work out and that's part of the game, part of the business.
"I like where I'm at. I'm learning. I'm playing a lot better, so I've just got to be consistent with it."
However, when asked if he was looking forward to returning to Carolina and showing his former team what he is capable of, Bernadeau admitted that he was thinking about it.
"You always get that feeling," Bernadeau said. "You always want to play. It's going to just be exciting to come back and play, especially with a lot of good friends on the team."
Bernadeau has immediately been given more opportunities in Dallas than he was regularly given in Carolina, and there are a number of critics early in the season who do not believe he was worth the four-year deal the Cowboys committed to him. But the offensive line, and Bernadeau in particular, played much better in a loss to the Ravens last Sunday.
On Wednesday, he talked about helping the Cowboys rush for over 200 yards against a stout Baltimore defense.
"Being able to run the ball that much is always good, but you've got to be able to do it every game," Bernadeau said. "It was a better game. I know I can get a lot better. I know there are things I can improve on."