Compared to his first three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Leonard Fournette‘s 2020 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been quite a different experience.
After being a workhorse back with the Jaguars, Fournette has been just part of the Buccaneers running back rotation this season alongside Ronald Jones, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and LeSean McCoy. Fournette has said it’s been a “humbling” experience for him this year after being let go by the Jaguars at the end of August. But Fournette’s ability to mesh with what the Buccaneers already has helped him be a part of a team playing for a Super Bowl this weekend.
“The biggest thing with Leonard was accepting that he wasn’t the superstar and the only guy, and wasn’t ‘The Man,’” Buccaneers running backs coach Todd McNair said. “Once he accepted that, he’s been a trooper, man.”
Fournette had just 97 carries for 367 yards in 13 games played for the Buccaneers this season. In his two full seasons in Jacksonville, he had 268 carries (13 games) and 265 carries (15 games) with 1,000-yard seasons in both years. Even in 2018 when he appeared in just eight games he had 133 carries. As a former No. 4 overall pick, Fournette was a focal point in Jacksonville. He no longer had to be in Tampa. It may have been a tough concept to accept initially, but Fournette’s ability to embrace it has allowed him to be a contributor.
“It was difficult for me,” Fournette said. “You’re coming from a team where the offense ran through you, and you come to a team where you’re part of the offense. So it’s different. I had to accept my role and just ball.”
Added head coach Bruce Arians: “It’s very, very hard when you’re a superstar and you’re the focal point of the offense and you come to a [different] team and you’re basically a role player for a while. It’s a very hard role to accept. I just told him, ‘This team is special and you’re a huge part of it. Embrace your role – you never know when your role is going to change.’ Then, Ro got hurt. He got COVID and then he got hurt. I’m really, really proud of Leonard and the way he’s handled it.”