A few weeks before a redemptive star turn in Super Bowl 2021, Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette nearly was released by the Buccaneers.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians said he met with the two-time 1,000-yard rusher following a Week 14 benching about his reduced role and asked Fournette if he wanted to remain with the team.
“I said, ‘This is your situation. It can change at the drop of a hat,’” Arians told the Tampa Bay Times. “’Either embrace it, or you say, ‘Cut me.’ I said, ‘What do you want? Because this is a very special team that you’re part of. I think you’ve got a feeling of that. Just see if you can hang in there to see what happens.’ And he did, and I’m really proud of him.”
Starting running back Ronald Jones missed two games after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 reserve list in mid-December, and the 26-year-old Fournette took advantage of his decision to remain with the team.
Fournette, who was signed by Tampa after he was released by Jacksonville last August, totaled 448 yards from scrimmage and scored four touchdowns in the Bucs’ four postseason victories. That included 89 rushing yards – including a 27-yard touchdown scamper – and 46 more through the air in their 31-9 Super Bowl victory over Kansas City.