Bruce Arians told Leonard Fournette to quit ‘pouting’ or get cut ahead of Bucs’ Super Bowl run
Leonard Fournette was a decision away from missing out on the Buccaneers’ run to Super Bowl 55.
Fournette, the Jaguars’ No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, hadn’t panned out in Jacksonville like many thought he would. Things weren’t looking much better in Tampa Bay, with whom Fournette signed a one-year deal ahead of the 2020 season: He was a healthy scratch in Tampa’s Week 14 win over Minnesota, prompting him to seem uninterested in a team walkthrough the following week.
It was at that point that coach Bruce Arians gave Fournette a decision.
“It was going into the end of the season, and he was unsure of what his role was, or unhappy with what his role was,” Arians said of Fournette on the Pewter Report Podcast on Tuesday. “We had a walkthrough and he was a little bit disinterested. And we had a nice conversation. I said, ‘Look, when you come back on this field, you have 30 seconds to come back here and tell me that you’re all in, or you’re going to ask me to release you. Go inside, call whoever. But you’re not going to sit over there away from everybody. You have a tough decision.'”
In his podcast interview, Arians said he understood and “respected” why Fournette felt the way he did at the time: He had accumulated 308 yards from scrimmage and three rushing touchdowns at that point of the season — a far cry from what he had experienced as the former top recruit in the nation, LSU All-American and top-five NFL Draft pick.
Luckily for Fournette and the Buccaneers, he decided to stick it out with Tampa.
“We weren’t going to have anyone who was pouting going down the stretch. We couldn’t afford it. He came back in 30 minutes and said, ‘Coach, I’m all in,'” Arians recalled. “I said, ‘Great, because we are going to need you.’ Then (Ronald Jones) got hurt and Lenny came right to the front and led us all the way.”
Fournette put up 158 yards from scrimmage and three more scores in the final three weeks of the regular season, all wins, with Ronald Jones out because of COVID-19 protocols for two of those games.
Even Jones’ return to the team couldn’t stop Fournette exploding in the Bucs’ Super Bowl run: He had 132 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the wild-card round against the Washington Football Team; 107 yards and a receiving touchdown against the Saints in the divisional round; 74 yards and a touchdown against the Packers in the NFC Championship game; and 135 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Fournette leveraged that late-end burst into another one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Bucs, who returned every starter — Fournette included — from the team that won Super Bowl 55.
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