The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are planning to release former Super Bowl hero Leonard Fournette. ‘Playoff Lenny’ had a short tenure in Tampa and despite its discouraging finish, it was not without some sensational highs.
Leonard Fournette was picked up by the Buccaneers just before the start of the 2020 season. The Jacksonville Jaguars had decided that they were going to move on from the former seventh overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. The Buccaneers were fresh off an offseason of bewildering excitement. Fans were gobsmacked by the team’s new addition of Tom Brady and the new look the Buccaneers rolled out paying homage to their classic uniforms with more modern touches.
Leonard Fournette signed with Tampa, in what seemed like an obvious move. What was less obvious was how the signing would play out. Most expected that Leonard Fournette would immediately challenge Ronald Jones for the starting job and, being the more talented back, take over that position. The plan seemed to be going right along as choreographed when week two of the 2020 season saw Fournette rush for over 100 yards and two touchdowns, while Jones mustered under 30 yards on seven carries. To the surprise of many, Leonard Fournette wouldn’t see 100 yards rushing again that season and finished the 2020 season with just 367 yards rushing.
The Leonard Fournette experience seemed to be a train heading to nowhere until Jones’ gameday availability came into question. With his counterpart unable to suit up, Fournette was inserted into the lineup and ‘Playoff Lenny’ was born. The 2020 playoffs saw Leonard Fournette recreate himself and resurrect his image as an NFL running back. In four games, Fournette scored three touchdowns and only checked in under 100 yards from scrimmage once.
The 2021 season saw the Bucs bring back their stars for another shot at a championship. The memorable run for Fournette being capped by an MVP-worthy Super Bowl performance cemented him as the starter in Tampa Bay’s backfield at the onset of the season. Fournette showed noticeable improvement in every aspect of his game as he more than doubled his output in yardage despite not playing a full season. Come round two of the playoffs, ‘Playoff Lenny’ was back in action putting the ball in the endzone twice as the Buccaneers fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Los Angeles Rams.
The 2022 offseason signaled the beginning of more troubles in Tampa for Fournette. Ronald Jones, who had fallen out of favor in Tampa, was gone. The Buccaneers chose to replace him with a shiny new third-round draft pick, Rachaad White.
Third-round picks tend to get playing time and White did. Fournette failed to help his case by reporting to training camp overweight, this invited open speculation about his future with the team. An older, out of shape, running back on a big contract is logically not ideal.
2022 went on to be a majorly disappointing year for the franchise and Fournette as an individual. After a 100-yard game in week one against the Dallas Cowboys he failed to eclipse that mark again for the rest of the season, while Rachaad White’s role in the offense continued to steadily grow. White, with his slippery smooth running, showed flashes of a back who could take over games as Fournette had just a year ago.
The Buccaneers’ season ended, as it started, against the Cowboys. This time Leonard Fournette was not dominant, he was not ‘Playoff Lenny’ he was ineffective Lenny. Touching the ball just six times for a pedestrian 17 yards, put the final nail in Leonard Fournette’s coffin as a Buccaneer.
But it was Fournette himself who wanted things to end the way they did.
Fournette told the Tampa Bay Times he requested to be let go by the Bucs following the 2022 season.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) February 28, 2023
“I asked after the season to be (released) and they respected my wishes,’' Fournette said. “So no bad blood.’' https://t.co/UTv4f7sh1k
As Tampa Bay fans react to this news they have options, they can choose to mourn over the impending departure of a player whose impact on the team’s 2020 Super Bowl run is almost immeasurable or choose to be thankful for his contributions, as short lived as they were, and embrace the future.
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