The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are Super Bowl champions after a grueling NFL season. Running back Leonard Fournette was vital in the team’s playoff run as their primary ball carrier. Adjusting to Tampa Bay’s offense wasn’t the most challenging part of the year for the LSU product; it was keeping Tom Brady healthy.
The coronavirus forced the league to implement protocols for the entire year. According to Fournette, the Bucs made sure they did everything in their power to keep Brady off of the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Leonard Fournette says the Buccaneers didn’t want to give Tom Brady COVID-19
Like many teams during the 2020 season, the Buccaneers had their run-ins with the coronavirus. They placed 11 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list during the season, with only four missing a game. Their signal-caller, Tom Brady, never appeared on the COVID list.
“None of us wanted to be the dude who got Tom Brady sick! I don’t think people understand how challenging this season really was,” said Fournette per The Player’s Tribune. “A lot of the things we would have normally done as a team, we didn’t get to do. We didn’t have no team dinners. We couldn’t chop it up and play cards on the plane. We couldn’t go out together when we were on the road. We couldn’t do nothing, man.”
Although the team couldn’t be as close as they wanted to physically, the former first-round pick explained that the time spent in the locker room was valuable for them. They would talk, laugh, and offer advice to each other on a variety of topics. Players also used video games to bond with each other outside of football.
“Most of all, it was the locker room. We were lucky to have the kind of guys we had. Because I really needed them this year. It was a tough one for me,” said Fournette.
Leonard Fournette goes from NFL free agent to Super Bowl champion
Before the start of the 2020 season, Leonard Fournette’s football career was uncertain. The Jacksonville Jaguars released him after three rocky years with the team. The Buccaneers signed him in September with no guarantee he would find his way into the backfield rotation.
“Whenever I got down on myself, or things got tough for me, there was always somebody there to keep things loose and give me the perspective I needed. A lot of us were new to the locker room…we found a way to grow together and become a family,” Fournette said.
Fournette’s role in Tampa Bay’s offense increased late in the season. By the time the playoffs started, he was the lead back in Tampa. During the postseason, the 26-year-old rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He also became a threat in the passing game, catching 18 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown.
“I just put in the work, kept my faith and family close, and stayed positive. My family and my kids were always there for me unconditionally, no matter what our record was or whether I was playing,” said Fournette.
The Buccaneers celebrated their Super Bowl win at the aquarium
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers partied a lot after their Super Bowl 55 victory. They put together a sensational boat parade where Tom Brady threw the Lombardi trophy to Cameron Brate. According to Leonard Fournette, that wasn’t the only water activity the team did to celebrate their championship season.
“Where do you go when you can’t go to the club? You go to the Florida Aquarium! They had Migos performing. For the first time all season, we were all together in a nonfootball setting. As a family. As brothers. It felt like we were making up for all the times we didn’t get to have together during the season,” Fournette told the Player’s Tribune.
The fourth-year running back will have a decision to make this offseason. He will be a free agent and could garner interest because of his playoff performances. The Buccaneers will do their best to keep him, but they have a long list of impending free agents.
The 2020 season was a wild ride for Leonard Fournette. The season had everything for the Super Bowl champ, from being cut to hoisting the Lombardi trophy. It’s a good thing he and his teammates kept Tom Brady coronavirus-free all year. Who knows how their season would’ve ended if TB12 caught COVID-19 at the wrong time.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference