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Bruce Arians On What He Told Leonard Fournette About Role With Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette on the field during an NFL game.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 20: Leonard Fournette #28 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers walks off the field after defeating the Carolina Panthers 31-17 at Raymond James Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Leonard Fournette was a high school phenom, a superstar running back at LSU, and the No. 4 pick in the NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now, at just 26 years old, he's had to accept being a role player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In late August, the Jags cut Fournette after just three years with the franchise. He was coming off of his best rushing season in the NFL, going for a career-high 1,152 yards and 4.3 yards per attempt, but the moribund franchise decided to let him go.

He landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it wasn't immediately clear how he'd mesh with the new-look team, which had just added Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski months earlier, on top of a top-end receiving corps, and a promising young back in Ronald Jones. Ultimately, Fournette would take something of a backseat, to Jones, rushing for 367 yards and six touchdowns vs. 978 yards and seven scores for Jones.

Fournette's volume has picked up in the postseason. He has 48 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and had a touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints. He's embraced what was something of a joke nickname, "Playoff Lenny," foisted on him by the internet. Head coach Bruce Arians is proud of Fournette for how he's embraced his role, and become part of what he calls a "special" team.

"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,"Arians told Buccaneers.com. "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."

Leonard Fournette admits that he was upset at times, when he failed to beat Jones out as starter, and his playing time as fluctuated, but overall he feels very good about how things have worked out. Now, with the Super Bowl just over a week away, he's peaking at the right time.

"It feels good just to be a Buc," said Fournette. "[Brady] is a great one. I just thank God every day. I was crying for like 30 minutes – I was on the phone with my mom and my dad just [talking] about my journey. I think it's a wonderful story how it's playing out."

Super Bowl LV, which will be played in Tampa, kicks off at 6:30 p.m. next Sunday, Feb. 7. Playoff Lenny, Tom Brady, and the Bucs face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

[Buccaneers.com]