Fournette can change opinions on him

by Gary Shelton on December 16, 2020

in general

Jones could miss playing time./JOE MESTAS

Thursday, 4 a.m.

This could be the week that Leonard Fournette makes his closing arguments.

Fournette, not even active a week ago, might find himself in the starting lineup because of the health of starter Ronald Jones II. Jones had pins put in his fractured pinky finger. Later Tuesday, Jones was added to the team's Reserved/COVID 19 list.

That could leave the heavy work to Fournette, who the Bucs didn't bother to dress last week against Minnesota. Fournette has rushed for just 271 yards as a backup this season, 103 of them in one game.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

But Fournette, 25, has had two 1,000 yard seasons in his career, which could be a benefit against Atlanta.

“We’ll wait and see on ‘Ro," said coach Bruce Arians, speaking before the COVID test. "It’s more of a, ‘Can he protect himself?’ The procedure went well – it’s whether or not he can use that hand to protect himself. Leonard will step back into that spot [if Jones cannot play], yes.

“He’s in a great spot. He understood everything last week and he understands everything this week. He had a great practice today [and was] into it. Leonard is a pro. Just like everybody else on our team, it’s a week-to-week thing.”

The Bucs also put three special teams' players on the COVID list -- kicker Ryan Succop, punter Bradley Pinion and long snapper Zach Triner, which could keep all out of the Atlanta game.

They’re sitting [and] going through the testing [protocol]," Arians said. "We’re going to have a bunch of kickers, snappers and punters on our team – possibly by Friday or Saturday. We’re just waiting to see how it plays out. Knock on wood [that] the other guys will come back clean. We might still keep all those other guys around just in case. Can’t have enough of them anymore – that’s for sure.”

Fournette came to the Bucs off of waivers from Jacksonville, but never really found his rhythm. He rushed for 103 yards in the first Carolina game, but dropped several passes while playing as the third-down back.

Arians was hoping that Jones would be able to test his hand this week.

“I think Ro – hopefully tomorrow," Arians said. "But, definitely Friday. I can’t say enough about Jason [Licht] and the job he’s done. This is a heck of a roster – we’ve got depth everywhere. When we’ve had guys go down, we’ve had quality people [replace them]. Just watching them work in the last 24 hours with snappers, punters and kickers – getting guys in here was amazing. Quality people, too.”

Arians defended quarterback Tom Brady.

“I don’t know why anyone’s criticizing Tom," Arians said. "What he did at the end of the half and to start the second half [against] Minnesota – very, very few teams can score 17 points in a matter of five or six minutes. If we finished the half with 17 points, I don’t [care] how we start. He’s not getting enough credit for what he’s doing.”

Arians said that he hopes Falcons' coach Raheem Morris gets a longer shot with the Falcons.

“I would hope so," Arians said. "I think as you grow as a coach, you learn. I think for him, having had the development of coaching offense and defense while he’s in Atlanta just makes him even more of a better candidate. Obviously, he has a great rapport with players and players love playing for him. If you’re looking for a head coach, what else are you looking for?

“(They're) mixing it up a little bit more. More different fronts [and] different blitzes. Their blitz package is different than it’s been [and] they’re getting after the quarterback pretty [well], but they’re stopping the run. High, high energy, guys flying to the ball [and] extremely well coached.”

The Bucs play at 1 p.m. in Atlanta on Sunday.

Previous post:

Next post: