Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette‘s journey is well-documented at this point, with Jacksonville cutting the former top-ten pick and Fournette coming to the brink of being cut again before an attitude adjustment and then eventual dominant playoff stretch. The goal of repairing his image helped Fournette accept a more ambiguous role with Tampa Bay.
“I already had a bad reputation, I guess, coming from Jacksonville,” Fournette said via ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “That was the biggest thing — just trying to prove everyone wrong, that I wasn’t the guy that they said I was. That was the biggest thing — my character.”
How deserved is that reputation? Fournette had several incidents with the Jaguars that caused headlines and eventually led the team to void his guarantees. But Jacksonville’s image as a franchise isn’t great either, and one source told Laine they could have done a better job helping Fournette adjust to the NFL.
“He felt like he cared more than everybody else … so he’s gonna carry this team — ‘I’m gonna do this by myself,’” former Jacksonville RB coach Terry Robiskie said. “When he put that pressure on himself and he was gonna do it by himself, and when it didn’t work that way, he got mad at a lot of people and a lot of people got mad at him.”
After the team cut Fournette, Robiskie said there was an attempt by some in the organization to blackball him.
“I would say, yes, without a question, the Jaguars were trying to blackball him,” Robiskie said. “It certainly wasn’t the president or the head coach or the GM, but I do know, coming out of that building, some people had said something to other teams that wasn’t true about Leonard at all.
“That he’s late, he’s late for team bus, he’s late coming to meetings, he sleeps in the meetings, or he’s been arrested all these times, he’s right on the verge of getting kicked out of the league, that they’ve got so much stuff on him, that he’s a bad, bad guy, he’s bad in the locker room, he doesn’t work in practice – I can say that’s about as far-fetched of statements that you’ll ever hear.”
Fortunately for Fournette, Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians didn’t listen, and he praised the runner’s contributions to the team so far.
“I got nothing but really good reviews,” Arians said. “I knew some of the coaches I’ve worked with extremely well, and Leonard got great reviews and has been a model citizen since he’s been here.”
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