It’s been four games since Bucs running back Leonard Fournette suited up in red and pewter. Tampa Bay lost its’ leading rusher to a hamstring injury in the third quarter of a 9-0 loss to the Saints in Week 15. Fournette was supposed to return against the Eagles in the Wild Card round, but wasn’t healthy enough to play.
“[We’ll] wait and see when he can hit top speed,” head coach Bruce Arians said on Sunday. “He tried to hit top speed a couple of times and he could feel it. [Until] he’s full speed, we’re not going to use him.”
Fournette, who turned 27 on Tuesday, seems to believe that time has come. On Tuesday, the Bucs running back sent a tweet that suggests his return is pending this Sunday.
Of course, the final decision is not Fournette’s to make. The Bucs training staff will likely evaluate his performance throughout the week to see if he can run full speed. If he can, expect to see Fournette in the starting lineup against the Rams.
Fournette is the team’s leading rusher, posting 812 yards in the regular season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and scored ten total times. Getting Fournette back would help the Bucs, as the run game has struggled since his absence. But Fournette’s biggest contributions may come in pass protection. He’s grown significantly in that area this season. Also, second-leading rusher Ronald Jones may miss another week with a sprained ankle.
The Bucs host the Rams on Sunday at 3pm EST in the divisional playoffs.