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The journey from being the primary option your entire athletic career to being cut by the team that drafted you, then being a healthy scratch with your new team, can take a toll on a professional athlete. For Bucs running back Leonard Fournette, to say it was a blow to his ego would be an understatement.

In fact, it almost got him cut late last season, according a story Bucs head coach Bruce Arians recalled as a guest on the Pewter Report Podcast on Tuesday.

“Yeah, 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. “We had a walk-through 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’.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

“I mean he had been the guy everywhere he’d ever been his whole life. And (at this time) he wasn’t the guy and it was hard for him. And I respected that, but he had to make a decision then and there. Because 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’. I said ‘great, because we are going to need you’. Then RoJo got hurt and Lenny came right to the front and led us all the way.”

Fournette had 97 carries for 367 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in the regular season. He added 36 receptions for 233 receiving yards, but struggled with drops. But the former fourth overall pick took his game to a new level in the playoffs.

“My mindset, coming in with a different mindset,” Fournette said back in March after signing a new one-year deal to remain in Tampa Bay.”Whatever is thrown my way…look at the positive instead of the negative. That is where I grew.”

Soon after his meeting with Arians, Fournette claimed the lead back role, posting 64 carries for 300 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason. The veteran added 25 receptions for 192 yards and another score as a receiver. Fournette went from nearly being cut to earning the nickname, “Playoff Lenny”, then “Lombardi Lenny.”

After winning the Super Bowl over the Chiefs, Fournette spoke to the media and summed up his whirlwind of a year.

“It’s crazy. It’s a great story that I can tell my kids about keeping faith, staying focused, a whole bunch of things,” Fournette said. “It was a tough year for me. As a competitor you want to be out there, you want to compete. You want to play as hard as you can and help the team. In some games I didn’t get a chance to help anyone, but in the long run playoff Lenny came alive. I thank God each and every day that the Bucs gave me a second opportunity to play football and the game that I love. I’m just thankful.”

You can see the full podcast with Arians below.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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eaustinyoung
4 months ago

I love this approach. You think Belichick or Payton sit around and take shit from players? No. You’re a part of a whole. Even a historical sports icon like Brady will tell you that.

toucan
4 months ago

Football is the ultimate “no i in TEAM” sport. “Lenny” should know that at this point. Release him for a lesson in life.

PissedOffBuc1988
Reply to  toucan
4 months ago

This happened last season, not recently.

WeAretheChamps2002+2021
Reply to  toucan
4 months ago

But there is a “me.”

Alldaway 2.0
4 months ago

I feel that people often look at the 2020 Bucs and see a stacked team. But the bottom of the roster has to be NFL average and that was true for the 2020 Bucs.

Runole
Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
4 months ago

agree through the first 12 games without any training camp with a new QB no pre season and several new pieces the Bucs were average. However, with an 8 game wining streak and SB championship they are no longer average. They took the hardest task being a wild card with all their playoff games away. Only in the Redskin game did they stutter a bit on defense. They hadn’t game planned for the QB. Barring catastrophic injuries they remain a favorite to go back to the SB. With a full pre season they will be a much better team than… Read more »

drdneast
4 months ago

BA is known for shooting it straight with players and he sure did in this situation. Glad to see Fournette handled it like an adult and went on to to play great in the playoffs.

mark2001
4 months ago

Lethargic… disinterested…despondent…sulking… Less than ready or inspired to play, and accept his role on the team? But pouting? I don’t know about that word. I don’t think BA used that word. Maybe a poor choice of words, bordering on sensationalistic?

Kimba
4 months ago

Fournette has an incredible story that needs to be told. Bruce Arians should of been coach of the year, he deserved it, tough love is real and BA saved this kids career and changed his life.

Bradenton BucFan
4 months ago

Life as rb in NFL. He is lucky to have a roster spot in the league. His position is not as valuable as 20 years ago.

bucballer
4 months ago

In Tampa, Fournette is just one part of the whole on offense. In Jacksonville he was the offense. Similar to Suh in Detroit. He was the defense on some bad Lion’s teams. Here is just one member of a very good defense. Lessons learned by both! Both fulfill their roles in an excellent way here in Tampa! Glad to have them both back for another run!

Barnz1
4 months ago

Unfortunately Fournette still has the ego of a superstar despite being an average NFL player. Rojo far outperformed on the ground running behind the same line. 5ypc vs 3.9. He rightly was glued to the bench because both had drop issues but one at least was explosive.
He got his chance and took so credit to him. I think we could see the sulking again this season if he’s not getting all the snaps. It’s all about me me with Fournette. Contrast that to Rojo who has always been team first.

scubog
4 months ago

So much of football, and life in general, is the mental aspect. As Yogi said, “50% of it is half mental”. People often expect more out of these youngsters than they would from themselves at their own job. Many of us have had situations in which we thought we weren’t being treated fairly, our accomplishments were not being acknowledged, our contributions too often ignored and opportunities not offered. Seems to me Leonard was having a hard time getting out of the funk he must have felt after being released by the Jags and trying to fit in was an uphill… Read more »

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