Leonard Fournette

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Running Back #27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Running Back #27
Photo: Icon Sportswire

Leonard Fournette News

No more major obstacles to touches

Fournette no longer has to share the Buccaneers' backfield with Ronald Jones, who recently departed to the Chiefs in free agency, Greg Auman of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Although Fournette generally drew the headlines when it came to the Buccaneers' backfield last season, the split in workload between him and Jones wasn't as drastic as might be assumed. Fournette did log 79 more regular-season carries than Jones in two fewer games in 2021, but the former only logged at least 20 carries in a game twice all season and postseason. Third-year back Ke'Shawn Vaughn currently slots in as Fournette's primary backup for the 2022 season, and although the Vanderbilt product has shown flashes over his first two campaigns, he only has 62 career carries. That lack of experience gives him considerably less pedigree than Jones, who'd amassed 364 carries and 59 receptions during the 2019 and 2020 seasons alone before morphing into a clear No. 2 back over the course of 2021.

Mar 29, 2022 5:35 PM EST

Gets three-year deal from Tampa

Fournette is signing a three-year, $21 million contract with Tampa Bay, including $9 million guaranteed, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.

Analysis: It sounds similar to James Conner's new contract with the Cardinals, though Fournette won't get as much guaranteed money. The 2017 first-round pick turned 27 in January, a few days before the Bucs were eliminated from the playoffs. Fournette had 107 total yards and two TDs in the loss to Los Angeles, returning to the lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury. He otherwise enjoyed a healthy season, with a 180-812-8 rushing line and 69-454-2 receiving line in 14 games. Fournette was a fantasy RB1 for much of the year, averaging 68.6 rushing yards, 34.4 receiving yards and a touchdown per week in a 10-game stretch Weeks 4-14 before injuring his hamstring. Similar production in 2022 is certainly conceivable with QB Tom Brady back for another year, though it'll partially depend on Tampa's other moves this offseason. Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard remained free agents at the time of Fournette's signing, while Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Kenjon Barner have spots on the Bucs' offseason roster.

Mar 22, 2022 6:12 AM EST

Scores twice in IR return

Fournette (hamstring) rushed 13 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns and secured all nine targets for 56 yards during the Buccaneers' 30-27 loss to the Rams in their NFC divisional-round matchup Sunday.

Analysis: The Buccaneers were particularly cautious about bringing Fournette back from his hamstring injury to soon, and their decision appeared to be validated with the versatile back's impressive performance. Fournette finished with the team lead in receptions on an afternoon where the Rams often played very effective coverage and also frequently made Tom Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. Additionally, although his rushing opportunities were capped to a degree by game script, the 27-year-old also was reasonably effective when asked to carry the ball. Fournette is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year, but given the positive impact he's had over his two seasons in Tampa Bay, he should be a strong candidate for re-signing.

Jan 23, 2022 4:17 PM EST

Activated from injured reserve

Fournette (hamstring) has been officially activated from IR in advance of Sunday's divisional-round game against the Rams.

Analysis: In a corresponding move, Tampa Bay waived Le'Veon Bell. Per Scott Smith of the team's official site, the Buccaneers didn't add Fournette to their injury report, which sets the stage for the running back to return to game action for the first time since Dec. 19. It remains to be seen how heavily Fournette will be used Sunday, but in the absence of any issues with his hamstring he should head the team's ground game versus Los Angeles, with Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard available to handle complementary/change-of-pace touches.

Jan 22, 2022 1:16 PM EST

Expected to come off IR

The Buccaneers plan to activate Fournette (hamstring) from IR ahead of Sunday's playoff game against the Rams, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Analysis: With that in mind, look for a transaction confirming this outcome to arrive prior to Saturday's deadline for such moves. Given that Ronald Jones (ankle) is out with an ankle injury, Fournette would re-join a Tampa Bay backfield that also includes Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard.

Jan 22, 2022 12:55 PM EST

Practicing again Thursday

Fournette (hamstring) was spotted participating in Thursday's practice, Greg Auman of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Since Fournette remains on injured reserve and not an official member of the 53-man roster, the Buccaneers don't have to disclose the extent of his participation, though his presence on the field is a promising sign for what's expected to be the team's most rigorous practice session of the week. Head coach Bruce Arians may provide more information on whether Fournette is trending toward playing in Sunday's divisional-round game against the Rams following the team's practices Thursday and Friday, but if not, clarity on the running back's status should come no later than the 4 p.m. ET deadline Saturday for Tampa Bay to make roster moves. If the Bucs elect not to activate Fournette this week, Giovani Bernard (hip/knee) and Ke'Shawn Vaughn would likely split work out of the backfield once again, just as they did in the wild-card win over the Eagles. Meanwhile, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes that Ronald Jones (ankle) has ditched his walking boot, but Jones will still face an uphill battle to gain clearance for Sunday's game.

Jan 20, 2022 8:30 AM EST

Status TBD for divisional round

Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday that the Buccaneers continue to take a "wait and see" approach with Fournette (hamstring), Greg Auman of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Arians added the team may gain some clarity following Thursday's full practice, when Fournette will attempt to hit top speed without discomfort, which is something he's been unable to do as of Monday. As for the rest of Tampa Bay's backfield, Ronald Jones (ankle) again didn't practice, while Giovani Bernard was a limited participant. With no Fournette or Jones in this past Sunday's wild-card win against the Eagles, Bernard and Ke'Shawn Vaughn split snaps (49 percent share apiece) and touches (18 versus 19), a breakdown that may continue if the top two options, when healthy, again are unavailable for Sunday's divisional-round matchup with the Rams. The Bucs have until 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday to activate Fournette (or not) from injured reserve.

Jan 19, 2022 2:30 PM EST

Hamstring issue lingers

Coach Bruce Arians noted that Fournette, who wasn't activated from IR ahead Sunday's playoff win over the Eagles, hasn't been able to hit top speed without feeling his hamstring injury, Scott Smith of the Buccaneers' official site reports.

Analysis: Per Carmen Vitali of the team's official site, Arians also indicated that "until (Fournette is) full speed, we're not going to use him." With that in mind, the running back's status for next weekend's game remains cloudy. With Ronald Jones (ankle) inactive for this Sunday's contest, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard led Tampa Bay's rushing attack in the team's playoff opener.

Jan 16, 2022 1:43 PM EST

Won't play Sunday

The Buccaneers didn't activate Fournette (hamstring) from injured reserve Saturday, making him ineligible to play Sunday against the Eagles, Carmen Vitali of the team's official site reports.

Analysis: Despite optimism from coach Bruce Arians early in the week and the Bucs designating him for return from IR on Wednesday, Fournette's hamstring didn't test out well enough for him to get back on the active roster. With Ronald Jones (ankle) already ruled out for Sunday's wild-card matchup, Tampa Bay will rely on Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard (hip/knee) -- who was activated from IR on Saturday -- and Le'Veon Bell out of the backfield in its postseason opener. Fournette's next chance to suit up will be in the divisional round if the Buccaneers happen to advance.

Jan 15, 2022 1:08 PM EST

Unlikely to play Sunday

Fournette (hamstring) isn't expected to be activated from injured reserve ahead of Sunday's wild-card game against the Eagles, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.

Analysis: The Buccaneers, namely coach Bruce Arians, expressed optimism early in the week about Fournette returning to action for the team's first postseason contest. While he was designated for return from IR on Wednesday, Fournette seemingly didn't prove the health of his hamstring and won't experience the final step (activation from IR) by Saturday's 4:00 p.m. ET deadline, Meanwhile, Giovani Bernard (hip) likely will be activated, per Laine, meaning Tampa Bay's backfield Sunday should be comprised of Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Le'Veon Bell and Bernard.

Jan 15, 2022 12:42 PM EST

Dubbed game-time decision

Coach Bruce Arians suggested Friday that Fournette (hamstring) will be a game-time decision Sunday against the Eagles, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Analysis: Fournette was designated to return from IR on Wednesday, which means he won't be listed on the Bucs' injury report for the wild-card round. They'll need to officially move him from IR to the active roster by Saturday evening in order to have him eligible for Sunday's game, though the transaction wouldn't necessarily make him a lock to play. In fact, Arians said Friday that Fournette and LB Lavonte David (foot) are "more questionable," whereas the Bucs coach feels "pretty good" about OLBs Shaq Barrett (knee) and Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder). Meanwhile, RB Ronald Jones (ankle) has been ruled out, which means a Fournette absence would leave Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Le'Veon Bell and maybe Giovani Bernard (IR/hip) as the likely top backfield options this Sunday. It sounds like both Fournette and Bernard may need to be treated as game-time decisions, though Greg Auman of The Athletic reported earlier Friday that Fournette's practice activity hinted at a return (and start) this Sunday.

Jan 14, 2022 9:49 AM EST

Cleared for return to practice

The Buccaneers have designated Fournette (hamstring) for return from IR and he is practicing Wednesday.

Analysis: Coach Bruce Arians said recently that Fournette is trending in the right direction in his recovery from a hamstring strain, and that the lead running back could even be available for Sunday's playoff opener against the Eagles. Among Wednesday's transactions, Tampa Bay has also designated Giovani Bernard (knee) for return from IR. Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Le'Veon Bell both remain available in the event that neither Fournette or Bernard are able to gain clearance, while the availability of Ronald Jones (ankle) looks more uncertain.

Jan 12, 2022 7:36 AM EST

Making progress for playoffs

Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday that Fournette (hamstring) is trending in the right direction and could be back for the opening round of the playoffs, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Analysis: Di reported Tuesday that the Bucs are "very optimistic" their starting running back will return for the beginning of the playoffs. For now, the team still has a bit of a mess at the position, with Ronald Jones (ankle) wearing a walking boot instead of practicing Wednesday, while it's unclear if Giovani Bernard (knee) will be ready to return from IR. It could be Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Le'Veon Bell shouldering the load Week 18 against Carolina, with the Bucs hoping to then get Fournette back next week for the playoffs.

Jan 5, 2022 12:44 PM EST

Should be back for playoffs

The Buccaneers are "very optimistic" that Fournette (hamstring) will be ready to return from injured reserve in advance of their first playoff game, Dianna Russini of ESPN reports.

Analysis: Since Fournette was placed on IR following the Bucs' Week 15 loss to the Saints, he's required to sit out at least three games before being eligible to practice and play. Sunday's regular-season finale versus the Panthers will mark his third absence, but Fournette has seemingly progressed from his strained hamstring to the point that the Buccaneers believe he'll be ready to go for the wild-card round. So long as Fournette avoids any setbacks upon returning to practice next week, the Buccaneers would presumably be eager to give him all the snaps he can handle, given the banged-up state of the rest of the backfield. Ronald Jones (ankle) and Ke'Shawn Vaughn (ribs) both suffered injuries in the Week 17 win over the Jets and are uncertain to be available for the season finale, while Giovani Bernard (hip) still resides on IR with Fournette for the time being.

Jan 4, 2022 2:48 PM EST

Done for regular season

Tampa Bay placed Fournette (hamstring) on injured reserve Thursday, Scott Smith of the Buccaneers' official site reports.

Analysis: Head coach Bruce Arians demurred Wednesday when asked if the hamstring strain Fournette suffered in the Week 15 loss to the Saints would force him to IR, but after further deliberation on the matter, the Buccaneers officially decided to shut the running back down. The transaction means Fournette will miss the final three games of the regular season, but Tampa Bay is presumably hopeful that Fournette will be ready to go for the start of the playoffs if the Buccaneers are able to secure a spot. In the meantime, Ronald Jones is set to fill in as Tampa Bay's lead back over the next three contests, and he could have a path to a near-every-down role through Week 17 with pass-catching specialist Giovani Bernard (knee) also on IR. Ke'Shawn Vaughn and the newly signed Le'Veon Bell are left as the depth options behind Jones.

Dec 23, 2021 1:07 PM EST

Absent for another practice

Fournette (hamstring) isn't participating in Thursday's practice, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Analysis: After injuring his hamstring in Tampa Bay's 9-0 loss to New Orleans in Week 15, Fournette isn't expected to play Sunday against the Panthers and could even be a candidate to go on injured reserve, in which case he would miss the rest of the regular season. At least for the Buccaneers' upcoming game, Ronald Jones is expected to serve as the team's lead back, with Ke'Shawn Vaughn and the newly signed Le'Veon Bell providing depth behind him.

Dec 23, 2021 8:26 AM EST

Not a lock for IR?

Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday that he's too early to know if Fournette (hamstring) will be placed on injured reserve, Scott Smith of the Buccaneers' official site reports.

Analysis: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that the transaction was expected to happen, but the Bucs still had Fournette on their active roster as of Wednesday morning and apparently won't rush on a decision. The running back isn't practicing Wednesday and isn't expected to play this week, leaving Ronald Jones as the presumed lead back for Sunday's game in Carolina. The Bucs also have Ke'Shawn Vaughn and now Le'Veon Bell as backfield options.

Dec 22, 2021 9:51 AM EST

Likely IR bound

The Buccaneers are expected to place Fournette (hamstring) on injured reserve, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Analysis: When the transaction is official, Fournette will miss the rest of the regular season due to the hamstring issue he sustained this past Sunday versus the Saints. There's an expectation that he'll be able to return for the postseason, per Schefter, but Tampa Bay will turn over most of the backfield work to Ronald Jones for the next three games. As a corresponding move, the team is signing Le'Veon Bell to provide another depth RB option alongside Ke'Shawn Vaughn.

Dec 21, 2021 3:16 PM EST

Could miss time

Fournette (hamstring) could be in danger of missing time due to the injury he sustained during Sunday's 9-0 loss to the Saints, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Analysis: Fournette may be in danger of missing "a game or two," in Rapoport's words, but it appears that there's little concern about his availability for the playoffs. The Buccaneers may also have lost Chris Godwin (knee) for the regular season due to an MCL sprain, but at least Mike Evans (hamstring) is believed to have avoided a major injury. Ronald Jones would stand to take over as the lead option in Tampa Bay's backfield if Fournette does end up missing time, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn could even see a few opportunities to get on the field.

Dec 20, 2021 7:51 AM EST

Done for night due to hamstring

Fournette (hamstring) has been ruled out for the remainder of Sunday's game against the Saints.

Analysis: The Buccaneers have now lost their three receptions leaders this season in the same game, as Mike Evans (hamstring) and Chris Godwin (knee) were both ruled out at halftime. Fournette was hurt in the third quarter after rushing nine times for 34 yards and catching all seven of his targets for 33 yards.

Dec 19, 2021 7:25 PM EST

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