Vague questions regarding Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette plagued much of his time in Jacksonville, even though there was never any specific issue or situation or incident that cast him in a bad light. So does his new head coach have concerns about Fournette’s character?
“No,” Bruce Arians told reporters on Thursday. “The people that I really, really trust gave him high, high marks in everything that I care about. I can’t say what’s going on in Jacksonville, but all I can say is what’s happening in Tampa [and] he’ll fit right in.”
Even with plenty of talented running backs, the Bucs jumped on the chance to add the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft.
“That’s one position I don’t think you can have enough good guys,” Arians said. “That’s the one area where nicks and bruises really add up and when you can get a player of that caliber — I’ve gotten great reviews from people that know him and have coached him. He’ll fit right in and then we’ll see what role happens and how fast it can happen. [Ronald Jones II] is our guy, [LeSean McCoy] is ready for his role, so it’s just going to be building roles as we go along and having enough quality players to finish this thing.”
Arians believes Fournette will hit the ground sprinting with the Tampa Bay playbook.
“He’s a very bright player and everything I’ve heard from the guys coaching him — he’ll pick it up really quick,” Arians said. “We’re not going to force him; we don’t have to force him. We’ll just let him get in his pace and if I know him, he’ll be pretty fast-paced. We’ll try to get him up to speed as fast as we can and see if he can have a role for next week.”
While snippets from Arians’ press conference created the clear impression that Fournette has no shot at becoming the starter over Jones, Arians’ full answer cracks the door, just a bit.
“We’ve just added a heck of a piece of insurance to see what kind of role he can cut out,” Arians said of Fournette. “RoJo — it’s his job if he wins it or loses it. He’s already got it, so he’d have to screw it up. I don’t see that happening.”
Arians didn’t say what it will take to “screw it up,” but each and every football season features Week One starters who inevitably find a way to “screw it up.” That’s just football, and that’s one of the possible outcomes in Tampa, no matter how unlikely Arians believes it will be.