Leonard Fournette returns to Tampa Bay

Tom Brady is back; Chris Godwin is back, and now Leonard Fournette has returned.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed re-signed Fournette, the team announced Wednesday.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a three-year deal worth $21 million.

The 27-year-old Fournette returns to Tampa Bay for a third season after leading the Buccaneers in both rushing yards (812) and rushing touchdowns (eight) in 2021.

Since joining the Buccaneers as a free agent in 2020, Fournette has played in 27 regular-season games, with 16 starts, recording 277 carries for 1,179 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He has also contributed 105 receptions for 687 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

The five-year veteran has played in and started five playoff games since joining the Buccaneers and stands as Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in both career postseason rushing yards (351) and scrimmage yards (555) while ranking second in rushing touchdowns (five), scrimmage touchdowns (six) and receptions (27).

During their run to the Super Bowl in 2020, Fournette put forth one of the best statistical playoff performances in NFL postseason history, leading the team in rushing yards (300), rushing touchdowns (three), scrimmage touches (82), scrimmage yards (448), scrimmage touchdowns (four) and receptions (18) during the 2021 NFL Playoffs.

He also became one of just three players in NFL history to record a touchdown in all four of their team’s playoff games in a single postseason, joining Larry Fitzgerald (2008) and Terrell Davis (1997). Fournette’s 448 scrimmage yards marked the most in team history for a single postseason and the ninth-most in NFL history for a single postseason. 

Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, came to Tampa Bay after spending his first three NFL seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19). 

Bucs activate Fournette from IR, waive Le’Veon Bell

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated running back Leonard Fournette from injured reserve and waived running back Le’Veon Bell, the team announced Saturday

Fournette, who injured his hamstring in Week 15, played in 14 games for the Buccaneers during the 2021 regular season, with 13 starts, prior to being placed on injured reserve on December 23.

The fifth-year running back rushed 180 times for 812 yards and eight touchdowns, adding 69 receptions for 454 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. He led the team in both rushing yards (812) and scrimmage yards (1,266) this season.

Over the Buccaneers four-game playoff run to Super Bowl LV last year, Fournette led the team in rushing yards (300), rushing touchdowns (three), scrimmage touches (82), scrimmage yards (448), scrimmage touchdowns (four) and receptions (18). He also became one of just three players in NFL history to record a touchdown in all four of their team’s playoff games in a single postseason, joining Larry Fitzgerald (2008) and Terrell Davis (1997). His 448 scrimmage yards marked the most in team history for a single postseason, the ninth-most in NFL history for a single postseason and stand as the second-most all-time in franchise playoff history, trailing only Mike Alstott (502). Fournette’s 300 rushing yards and 18 receptions both also set team records for a single postseason.

In addition, Tampa Bay elevated wide receiver John Brown and quarterback Ryan Griffin from the practice squad to the active roster for Sunday’s game vs. the Los Angeles Rams.

Buccaneers sign RB Le’Veon Bell

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed running back Le’Veon Bell, the team announced Wednesday.

Bell was signed after Leonard Fournette, who may go on IR, injured his hamstring Sunday night against the Saints.

The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection, comes to Tampa Bay after playing in five games with the Baltimore Ravens this season.

“He’s been a good receiver in the past and played in this offense in Pittsburgh for a while,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said. “We’ll see what he can learn and what he can give us in the next few weeks.”

Over 93 career regular season games, including 81 starts, the 29-year-old Bell has amassed 1,587 carries for 6,536 yards and 42 rushing touchdowns. He has played an integral role in the passing game, as well, making 395 receptions for 3,258 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since entering the league in 2013, Bell ranks fourth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (9,794) and first among running backs. His 504 first downs since 2013 rank third among all position players and first among running backs, while his 50 scrimmage touchdowns are tied for 10th among all players at his position. Bell has notched three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and three seasons with 1,500-or-more yards from scrimmage.

In the postseason, Bell has played in five games, recording 83 carries for 430 yards (5.2 avg.) and three touchdowns, in addition to 13 receptions for 91 yards receiving and one touchdown.

Bucs’ Arians on Fournette: ‘He’s just playing at a really high, consistent level’

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette had a massive game for the Buccaneers on Sunday. He had 17 carries for 100 yards and three rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning 28-yard touchdown run, while adding seven receptions for 31 yards and one touchdown as the Buccaneers defeated the Colts on the road 38-31.

Fournette’s four total touchdowns in the game marked a career-high and matched the most touchdowns from scrimmage by any player in franchise history.

After 11 games, Fournette has 631 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns on the season and eight total, which is the most in a season since his rookie year in 2017 (10).

On Monday, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians discussed Fournette’s big day against the Colts.

“Well, I think our blocking units did a hell of a job. He finds the holes,” Arians said. “He’s a 240-pound back that can run, and usually he’s coming out the back of Mike Evans’ side. You know he (Evans) is being doubled, so you’re going to have soft coverage. Those four and five-yard check-downs turn into 11 [yards] real quick, and then he breaks a tackle – like he did in a two-minute drill – and it is a 13-[yard gain]. So, don’t force it down the field. He’s doing a heck of a job in the passing game. It was a nice catch and a run on the touchdown and a really good throw by Tom [Brady]. He’s just playing at a really high, consistent level. He’s doing a good job as a pass protector also.”

Fournette is a weapon and making a lot of plays for the Buccaneers right now as Tampa Bay, the world champions, are looking to get back to the Super Bowl, and for that to happen, getting home-field advantage would be ideal. 

Last season, Tampa Bay won all three playoff games on the road, but that was with a limited amount of fans in the stadium due to the COVID-19 restrictions. However, there will be fans in the stands this season, which means teams will have a true advantage at home.

“There’s no doubt about it. It’s back like the old days. It has only ever happened a couple of times in the history of the league (where teams advance to the Super Bowl while playing every playoff game on the road),” Arians said. “When I was in Pittsburgh, we went to the Super Bowl and won with all the road games. I think the Giants may have done it, but that’s not very easy. It’s a very hard thing with fans. People forget – everybody talks about our road woes – we’re .500 on the road right now, and that’s pretty damn good in the old days. When there are fans in the stands, and you go and win in a place like Philly, and you go win in a place like Indy – those are hard stadiums to win in. Home-field advantage in the playoffs is a huge, huge advantage.”

Currently, the Buccaneers are a game behind the Cardinals for the top spot in the NFC, so with six games left, Tampa Bay has time to make up ground.

 

 

 

 

Bucs’ Brady on win over Eagles: ‘Obviously, we didn’t play our best’

Three games in 11 days are rough for any team in the NFL, which was the case for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and on Thursday night, the Buccaneers concluded those three games in 11 days with a 28-22 road win over the Eagles for their third consecutive victory.

Tampa Bay was not at their best against Philadelphia, but they did enough to get the job done. QB Tom Brady, who came in battling a thumb injury, completed 34-of-42 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. 

The Buccaneers’ defense also held the Eagles 213 yards of total offense.

“Definitely. It was a good win,” Brady said after the game. “It’s tough to win on the road. Obviously, we didn’t play our best. So we have to get back to work. We have a good little break here – use it – and then get back to work. See if we can get better.”

After the Eagles cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 28-22 late in the fourth quarter, Antonio Brown, who caught nine passes for 93 yards and one touchdown, helped put the game away with a 27-yard reception on the final drive.

“Yeah, [Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown] made a great play,” Brady said. “Just dipped underneath the guy and then found space – kind of what he’s done his entire career. He made a huge play; it was awesome.”

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians added on Brown’s big catch: “It was huge. Great route and hell of a throw when you’re trying to get out of the pocket. It’s a couple times this year he’s thrown out of the pocket to the right and made a big play down the field.”

Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette also came up big. He accumulated 127 yards from scrimmage, taking 22 rushes for 81 yards and two touchdowns while also contributing six receptions for 46 yards. Fournette has now recorded 100-or-more scrimmage yards in three consecutive games. The five-year veteran, who joined the team late in training camp last season, feels much more comfortable this season.

“I came in two weeks before our first game, so just having that year under my belt makes a big difference understanding it,” Fournette said. “Especially, playing with my guys for a year–trusting them and them trusting me–the lack of trust and accountability is done on both sides.”

Brady added on Fournette: “He’s a great back. He’s big, tough, catches it, runs, blocks, does everything for us. [It’s] great to have him in there. Obviously, when he’s rolling, it’s tough to stop us.”

Tampa Bay is 5-1, and each time they have been 5-1(four times), the Buccaneers won at least ten games, so this is shaping up to be another excellent season for the defending world champions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fournette, Antonio Brown called Tampa Bay ‘Last Chance U’

Leonard Fournette is back with the Buccaneers after he agreed to a one-year deal, the team announced on Wednesday.

According to espn.com, the deal is worth $3.25 million with incentives that would push it to $4 million.

In his first season with Tampa Bay in 2020, Fournette appeared in 13 regular-season games, making three starts. He rushed 97 times for 367 yards and six touchdowns while adding 36 receptions for 233 yards in the passing game.

The 26-year-old Fournette returns to Tampa Bay for a second season after helping the team win Super Bowl LV. 

The five-year veteran came to the Buccaneers after he was released by the Jaguars last summer.

Like Fournette, Antonio Brown’s career was in trouble before he joined Tampa Bay in October after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The 11-year veteran played in only one game in 2019 after the Raiders and Patriots released him. 

According to Fournette, he and Brown looked at the Buccaneers as “Last Chance U.”

“I used to try to make a joke out of it,” Fournette said. “I used to tell AB, ‘this sh** feel like Last Chance U.’ We can’t mess up. We on our second go round and things like that. He used to be like, ‘you know what, you gotta look at it like that…’ I think those conversations it carried me a long way throughout the season. We talked every day about it.”

For the 32-year-old Brown, it was “Last Chance U.” If he messed up, his career was probably over. As for Fournette, due to his age, he would have gotten another shot. However, nothing was guaranteed.

Fortunately, for the Buccaneers, Fournette, and Brown, things worked out. Fournette is back, and we’ll see if Brown will join him.

Fournette talks similarities between 2017 Jaguars, 2020 Buccaneers

In 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars went 10-6 and made it all the way to the AFC title game before falling to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette, a rookie on that Jaguars’ team in 2017, has not been back to the playoffs since that season. 

In the 2017 AFC title game, Jacksonville was up 20-10 in the fourth quarter, but Brady would hit Danny Amendola late in the game to secure a 24-20 victory for the Patriots. 

According to Fournette, there are some similarities between the 2017 Jaguars and the 2020 Buccaneers. Fortunately for the fourth-year running back, Brady will be on his side when he returns to the playoffs.

“Similar. The talent [aspect] is off the charts,” Fournette recently said. “This time around, I’m not going against Tom Brady – he’s on my team – so that’s a good thing. Second of all, I just think a lot of guys on our team have been to the playoffs, and we know what it takes. You have to lock in. Not saying it’s not possible, but you have to be perfect in practices now. The little things usually you get by with during the season, you can’t really do that. You have to run your routes at depth [and] block your guys. Everything is on the line. It’s just doing everything right and helping out my guys in my room and also other players on the team just to get better as a whole. I know we’re going to need everyone – all hands in – to go to the Super Bowl.”

The 2017 Jaguars had more talent on the defensive side of the ball than this version of the Buccaneers. On defense, Jacksonville was led by Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Calais Campbell, while the 2020 Buccaneers have a lot more talent on offensive side of the ball, and of course, they have Brady.

However, the expectations are different. No one expected the Blake Bortles led Jaguars to make a long playoff run. In contrast, this Buccaneers team was put together to win right now, and anything short of that would be a disappointment. 

Hopefully, for Fournette, Brady and the Buccaneers can do what he did for the Patriots in 2017 and lead Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2002 season.

Brady on Jones: ‘I have a lot of confidence in him’

It’s been a tough week for Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones. The third-year back, who fractured his pinky finger against Minnesota last Sunday, had surgery on Tuesday to repair the finger.

On Wednesday, Jones was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. At this time, his status for Tampa Bay’s game against the Falcons is uncertain. 

Jones has played well for Tampa Bay this season. In 13 games, he has career-highs yards(900), yards per carry(5.0), and tied his career-high with six rushing touchdowns. At this point of the season, Jones has gained the confidence of Tom Brady. 

“I think, first of all, we’re all thinking about ‘Ro,'” Brady said about Jones on Thursday. “Obviously, a tough week for him when you have an injury, and then you have something that comes up with COVID. He’s been so reliable, dependable [and] consistent for us. Even in the offseason, his commitment to making improvements to his game, and I think everyone has a great deal of respect for ‘Ro’ and what he’s brought to the team. For a young player, he’s shown a lot of maturity – he’s very selfless. I love when he’s in the backfield with us, and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Without Jones, Brady will have to depend on Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, which still gives Brady confidence.

I have a lot of confidence in the other backs,” Brady said. “Leonard [Fournette] has played a lot [and] done a lot of great things, ‘Shady’ (LeSean McCoy) has done a great job, Ke’Shawn [Vaughn] has done a great job when he’s been in there. We have a really talented backfield, and we just have to continue to find ways to use them all so they can all be productive.”

Brady is right. Tampa Bay has a lot of depth at the running back position, which should come in handy if Tampa Bay is without Jones on Sunday and beyond.

Fournette has a great opportunity in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially signed former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, the team announced on Sunday.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a one-year deal with a $2 million base salary and max value of $3.5 million.

The former number four overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft comes to Tampa Bay after spending three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19). In 2019, Fournette racked up 1,674 all-purpose yards, which ranked sixth in the NFL among all players and fifth among running backs. He also ranked sixth in rushing, with a career-best 1,152 yards, marking the second time he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in the past three seasons. Fournette’s 76 receptions and 522 receiving yards a year ago each ranked fifth among running backs.

There have been some reports about teammates not wanting to play with Fournette in Jacksonville, and according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, before the team released Fournette, the Jaguars were looking to deal him, but with the Buccaneers, Fournette will be playing with Tom Brady, who brings instant respect. In 2017, Jacksonville made it to the AFC title game before losing to Brady and the Patriots, and Fournette was a big part of Jacksonville’s success that season.

Tampa Bay adds the 25-year-old Fournette to a backfield that includes Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy. They also add Fournette to an offense that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. It should be interesting to see how the Buccaneers will use Fournette. Still, no matter how they use him, the Buccaneers are getting a talented football player, who will try to put himself in a position to get a big contract when he becomes a free agent at season’s end. 

Tampa Bay will give Fournette a chance to win again, and hopefully, for him, change the narrative.

Jags’ Thompson on when Fournette told team he was released: ‘We thought he was joking’

During his time in Jacksonville, the one thing we learned about RB Leonard Fournette is he liked to have fun, and he told the Jacksonville media this back in August:

“Most of you guys know I’m always joking and playing, that’s just me,” Fournette said. “I think it kind of got out of hand, so I just wanted to get that out there. I’m not a jerk, but when it comes to football and winning, I’m all in for that.”

So, when Fournette told the team that he had been released on Monday, according to Jaguars RB Chris Thompson, no one believed him.

“Yeah, we were shocked about it,” Thompson said about Fournette getting released via a video call on Tuesday. “He came in the room a couple of minutes before our team meeting and let us know that he had gotten released. We didn’t believe it. We thought he was joking because, you know, he laughs and jokes with us all the time. It wasn’t really until [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone said it in the team meeting that we really believed it. It was a shocker for everybody. The mood was just different that day, or different yesterday at practice, but you know, it’s the NFL, and we just have to rock with the decision that’s being made.”

No Fournette means opportunities for others, including the seventh-year veteran Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Nathan Cottrell, and James Robinson. On Tuesday, Thompson, who spent time in OC Jay Gruden’s offense while in Washington, assessed Jacksonville’s running back room.

“In my opinion, I think they can do a little bit of everything,” he said. “They’re good pass catchers. They can run routes pretty good, and their vision is amazing, especially James [Robinson]. I think he’s one of those guys to me, in my opinion, [that] probably has the best vision out of all of us and it’s been great to see a young guy like that be able to come in and be able to make the plays and hit the holes that he’s been able to hit. I’m excited. I’m excited for all [of] the guys. Nate [Nathan Cottrell], he’s the fastest running back that we have right now, so I’m excited for him and his future. Ryquell [Armstead] and Zig [Devine Ozigbo], they’re both guys that were here last year and now with Leonard [Fournette] not being here, they’re going to be able to get a lot more opportunities. From what I saw, from what Rock [Ryquell Armstead] did last year and Zig, especially in that last game against the Colts, I think they have a lot of potential [that] we’re going to see here moving forward.”

Running backs coach Terry Robiskie added this about the team’s running backs: “It looks young, it looks young. It looks energetic, it looks like a bunch of fresh guys, just a bunch of big-eyed guys that [are] looking at the goal, [they] just want an opportunity, they want an opportunity. I think they feel the opportunity is there. A group of guys that [are] ready to go meet the challenge, go prove themselves. Like I said, everybody in life wants an opportunity. I’ve got a group of guys that [have] got a shot, they’ve got an opportunity here and it’s right before them.”

The release of Fournette was surprising, but it was not very shocking. Jacksonville had been looking to trade Fournette for some time, but the timing surprised many, and now it’s up to others to make things happen without Fournette.