Leonard Fournette learned his final status late Saturday afternoon for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Divisional Round showdown on Sunday.
The Bucs activated the star running back from injured reserve for the NFC playoff game with the Los Angeles Rams, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported. Fournette hasn’t played since a hamstring injury on Dec. 19, Rapoport added.
The Bucs made Fournette’s activation official 15 minutes later.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians also hinted on Friday that Fournette could return.
“He looks fine. He looks good,” Arians said during a press conference. “He didn’t have the setback he had last week, so we’ll wait and see.”
Fournette dropped a hint on Tuesday via Twitter that he would play against the Rams. He added a little mystery to with since it was also his birthday.
“Appreciate all the birthday luv,” Fournette tweeted. “man only if y’all knew the roads I had to take to get here, all the people I lost … that can’t experience everything with me. Thank Y’all, and I will see you guy(s) Sunday.”
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Lead Back Lenny
Fournette emerged as the lead back this season for the Bucs, and he rushed for 812 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries during the regular season. He also became a reliable pass catcher for quarterback Tom Brady with 69 receptions for 454 yards and two touchdowns.
“Leonard does a great job when he is in there and, obviously, he does a lot of different things for us in the run game, pass game, blitz pick-up,” Brady said during Thursday’s press conference. “He’s a very dependable, consistent player for us. He’s had a lot of production this year. Other guys really stepped up when he was out, but obviously we really love having ‘Lenny’ in there. He did a great job in the biggest moments last year. I think everyone believes in him, trusts in him and knows he can really come through for us.”
Tampa Bay made due without Fournette during the final three weeks of the regular season and Wild Card round. The Bucs rushed for an average of 103 yards per game, all victories.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn stepped up during that stretch with 183 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries during that stretch. Vaughn helped alleviate both the loss of Fournette and then Ronald Jones II the following week on Dec. 26.
Fournette’s return looked possible for the Wild Card round against Philadelphia, but the Bucs kept him on injured reserve. It likewise looked unclear all week if he would return for the Rams game.
“Playoff Lenny” Returns
His return comes at a perfect time for the Bucs in the playoffs. He took off during last season’s postseason run, which earned him the nickname “Playoff Lenny”. He amassed 448 total yards and scored four touchdowns in the run to Super Bowl LV. He became the third player ever to score a touchdown in a in each of four playoff games per ESPN Stats & Info.
Fournette came to the Bucs in September 2020 after the Jacksonville Jaguars waived him. He played behind Jones most of that season until his playoff emergence.
Now, Fournette can look like “Playoff Lenny” again come Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.