Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with  running back Leonard Fournette (7) after running the ball in for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa teammates thought Tom Brady would return

When Tom Brady retired with a lengthy social media post, running back Leonard Fournette saw the next route coming: the reverse.

Brady, who spent just more than one month retired after the February announcement, was back in uniform with Fournette and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. Fournette said it’s almost like Brady, 44, never left.

“He hasn’t lost a step. He is who he is,” Fournette said. “And me just being alongside him these three years, I wouldn’t want any other guy back there with us. He deserves everything he’s got and that’s coming to him. And I’m just proud of him.”

Brady said last week he felt pressure to make a decision on returning with free agency and the draft approaching.

Fournette figured Brady would be back after a 30-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on a last-second field goal ended the Bucs’ season in the NFC divisional round in January.

“I kind of knew because I told him, I want to say two days after the game, I’m like, ‘T, we can’t go out like that.’ And he agreed with me,” Fournette said Tuesday. “Like, we left too many mistakes on the field that kind of messed us up and we were playing catch-up the whole game. So I think as a champion, I knew he wouldn’t want to go out like that for his legacy.”

Brady’s return was a magnet for fellow Buccaneers’ free agents, including Fournette, who re-signed on a three-year deal.

A reunion with Brady played in a role in the team’s most recent signing, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. Hicks played with the New Orleans Saints for his first three-plus seasons before a trade sent him to New England. After playing with the Patriots, Hicks spent six seasons with the Chicago Bears and contemplated retirement at age 32.

“Something I’ve thought of often is that when I came into the league I had Drew Brees and Tom Brady as my first two quarterbacks,” Hicks said Tuesday. “And then I went to Chicago … it wasn’t Drew Brees and Tom Brady, let me say that, right? I feel spoiled to have somebody on the other side of the ball that can deliver all the time, and he’s proven it over the years.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) run the ball for a touchdown  against Los Angeles Rams safety Nick Scott (33)  in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs RB Leonard Fournette signing 3-year, $21M deal

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed running back Leonard Fournette to a three-year, $21 million contract, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Fournette, who visited with the New England Patriots on Monday, will receive $11 million guaranteed and could earn up to $24 million with incentives, per the report.

Fournette, 27, gained 1,266 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns in 14 games (13 starts) last season.

He has rushed for 3,810 yards and 31 touchdowns and caught 239 passes for 1,696 yards and four scores in 63 NFL games (52 starts) with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19) and Buccaneers.

In the postseason, “Playoff Lenny” has 593 rushing yards, 248 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games. He had 135 yards from scrimmage and a TD in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (78) talks to running back Ronald Jones (27) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs OT Tristan Wirfs out, C Ryan Jensen in vs. Rams

All-Pro offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs will miss the first game of his two-year NFL career on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC divisional-round clash.

While Wirfs was ruled inactive, Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen has been cleared to play. Both sustained ankle injuries during the Buccaneers’ 31-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in last weekend’s wild-card game.

Running back Leonard Fournette returns from a four-game absence due to a hamstring strain for the Bucs. He was activated from injured reserve on Saturday.

Fournette rushed for team-high 812 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games this season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two scores.

Fournette was a force in the postseason last year. He ran for 300 yards and three TDs and caught 18 passes for 148 yards and one score as the Buccaneers won four straight games to win the Super Bowl.

In addition to Wirfs, Tampa Bay’s inactives include running back Ronald Jones II, cornerback Pierre Desir, quarterbacks Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin, and wide receivers Cyril Grayson Jr. and Breshad Perriman.

The Rams listed offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Tremayne Anchrum Jr., safety Taylor Rapp, running back Buddy Howell, quarterback Bryce Perkins and linebackers Chris Garrett and Terrell Lewis as inactive.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) is tackled by New Orleans Saints defensive end Carl Granderson (96) in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs activate Leonard Fournette off IR, waive Le’Veon Bell

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated Leonard Fournette from injured reserve on Saturday and waived fellow running back Le’Veon Bell.

The move was made one day before the Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional round playoff game.

Fournette, 27, has been sidelined with a hamstring injury he sustained on Dec. 19 against the New Orleans Saints. He missed the final three regular-season games as well as last weekend’s 31-15 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fournette rushed for 812 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games this season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two scores.

Fournette was a force in the postseason last year when he rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 148 yards and one score as the Buccaneers won four straight games to win the Super Bowl.

Bell, 29, carried eight times for 18 yards and caught four passes for 31 yards in three games for Tampa Bay.

Bell was a three-time 1,000-yard rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers between 2013-17 before his career went downhill.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen (66) during warmups against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs C Ryan Jensen, RT Tristan Wirfs return to practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs were spotted during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday.

Jensen and Wirfs missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to their respective ankle injuries. Their participation in practice on Friday likely will go a long way toward determining their availability for Sunday’s NFC divisional-round playoff clash against the visiting Los Angeles Rams.

Jensen and Wirfs sustained their respective injuries during the Buccaneers’ 31-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card game last Sunday.

Leonard Fournette also suited up for practice on Friday, although he would need to be activated off injured reserve in order to play against the Rams.

Backfield mate Ronald Jones, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was out of his boot on Thursday but did not practice.

Fournette led Tampa Bay in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two scores.

With Fournette and Jones sidelined last weekend against Philadelphia, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard combined to rush for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) looks on prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette trending toward facing Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette remains on injured reserve but appears increasingly likely to play against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Fournette was spotted during the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Backfield mate Ronald Jones, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was out of his boot on Thursday but did not practice.

Because he is still on IR, Fournette was not listed on the official injury report. But offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich sounded optimistic after practice that Fournette will be ready to play for the first time since injuring his hamstring on Dec. 19.

“We’re still using this week to see if he’s healthy and how healthy he is,” Leftwich said. “It’s really tough right now to try and put a workload on him without really getting through the end of the week.

“I’ll have a better idea on what he can do as we get more towards Friday. But right now, (it’s) just good to see him out there and trying to work his way back in to do what he’s doing. Once he’s healthy, we’ll expect Lenny to be Lenny.”

Fournette led Tampa Bay in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns.

With Fournette and Jones sidelined last weekend against Philadelphia, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard combined to rush for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries. But Leftwich would love to get his workhorse back in time to face the Rams.

“It’s hard to do better from the running back position for us and what we ask him to do,” Leftwich said. “We ask him to catch it, we ask him to run it and we ask him to pass protect.

“He’s tough to get down on the ground. It’s good to be able to have a guy like that that can run it the way that he runs it and catch it the way he can catch it, and play with the football IQ that he has. Lenny is a unique guy.”

The Bucs continue to have significant concerns along the offensive line as center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs did not practice for the second consecutive day as they recover from ankle injuries. Backup tackle Josh Wells (quad) was listed as a limited participant.

“They’re a lot of tough dudes,” guard Ali Marpet said of the Bucs’ offensive line. “I think at this point in the year in order to play offensive line, you’re always going to be dealing with stuff.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) pushes away from Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Davion Taylor (52) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Running backs return for Bucs, Eagles

Primary ballcarries are expected to return to the field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles for their wild-card matchup Sunday.

Leonard Fournette, for whom the team adopted the nickname “Playoff Lenny” during a run to the Super Bowl a year ago, comes back after leading the Buccaneers in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season. Fournette was also third on the team with 69 receptions.

Fournette last played on Dec. 19 due to a hamstring injury.

In the 2021 playoffs, Fournette averaged 4.7 yards per carry, compiling 300 yards on 64 carries with three touchdowns. He also led the team in the playoffs with 18 receptions.

Sanders, 24, was hurt in a 34-10 victory against the New York Giants last month and his left hand was casted on Dec. 27.

Sanders had 137 carries for 754 yards (5.5 per carry) and caught 26 passes for 158 yards before the injury.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said Monday he is “expecting to have our full stable” of running backs for the playoffs, implying Jordan Howard (stinger) could also play in the game.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) falls on his head after he catches the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs’ Chris Godwin (MCL sprain) out at least three weeks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is expected to miss the final three games of the regular season with an MCL sprain, NFL Network reported on Monday.

Godwin was injured after taking a hard hit to his right knee early in the second quarter of the Buccaneers’ 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring), running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Lavonte David (foot) were also injured during Sunday’s game. NFL Network reported the injuries to Evans and Fournette are not expected to be “major” in severity, with the latter perhaps missing a game or two.

The passing game could receive a boost with the expected addition of Antonio Brown, who completed a three-game suspension after an NFL investigation determined he produced a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

While a three-week timetable would make Godwin a candidate for injured reserve, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Buccaneers have yet to make that decision.

Godwin, 25, has posted team-leading totals in catches (98) and receiving yards (1,103) to go along with five receiving touchdowns. He also has rushed for a score in 14 games this season.

Evans, 28, leads the Buccaneers with 11 receiving touchdowns. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has 64 catches for 899 yards in 14 games this season.

Without Godwin and Evans, Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady turned to wide receivers Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden on Sunday — with less-than-stellar results.

“It was big,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Sunday of the injuries. “The young guys, I was hoping they’d step up a little bit more — the receivers. Overall, we just dropped too many balls.”

Fournette, 26, leads the team in carries (180), rushing yards (812) and rushing touchdowns (eight). He also has provided an impact in the passing game with 69 receptions for 454 yards and two touchdowns.

Ronald Jones II likely will assume the bulk of the workload in the backfield should Fournette be sidelined.

“Those guys play a huge role on our team, so we have to uplift them and do a better job,” Jones said on Sunday. “Just guys going down and fighting adversity. We didn’t fight through today.”

David, 31, has 97 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in 12 games this season.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) before the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs’ Evans, Godwin to play, RB Fournette out vs. Packers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have both of their Pro Bowl wide receivers in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the visiting Green Bay Packers.

While both Mike Evans (ankle) and Chris Godwin (hamstring) are active, running back Leonard Fournette was listed as inactive for the clash versus the Packers (4-0). Fournette previously was listed as questionable with an ankle injury.

Evans, who leads the team in catches (22), receiving yards (271) and touchdowns (six), played through an ankle injury in Tampa Bay’s 20-19 setback to Chicago on Oct. 8.

Godwin has been sidelined since making five receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s 28-10 win at Denver on Sept. 27. He has 11 catches with 143 receiving yards and a touchdown this season after coming off a breakout campaign that saw him haul in 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.

Fournette was active for the Buccaneers’ loss to the Bears but did not have a rushing attempt. He has 123 rushing yards in his first season with the team.

Ronald Jones, who leads the team in carries (74) and rushing yards (359), is expected to receive the bulk of the workload in the backfield.

Along with Fournette, Tampa Bay listed quarterback Ryan Griffin, linebacker Quinton Bell, offensive guard Aaron Stinnie and defensive lineman Khalil Davis as inactive.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter of a NFL game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs’ Godwin out, Evans questionable vs. Bears

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without one of their Pro Bowl wide receivers for Thursday’s game against the host Chicago Bears, while the other is listed as questionable.

Chris Godwin was ruled out Wednesday and will miss his second game with a hamstring injury for the Bucs (3-1), who also ruled out running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) and wide receiver Justin Watson (shoulder).

Wide receiver Mike Evans was listed as questionable to face the Bears (3-1) after working through an ankle injury sustained in the first quarter of Sunday’s 38-31 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Evans, 27, leads the team in catches (17) and touchdowns (five), while fellow wideout Scotty Miller — who is questionable with hip and groin injuries — has a club-best 250 yards receiving.

Godwin, 24, has 11 catches with 143 receiving yards and a touchdown this season. He’s coming off a breakout season that saw him haul in 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.

Running back Leonard Fournette (ankle) was listed as doubtful for Tampa Bay, which likely will rely on Ronald Jones II and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn out of the backfield.

Jones leads the team in carries (57) and rushing yards (253), while Vaughn had a touchdown reception versus the Chargers.

Chicago safety Deon Bush was ruled out against Tampa Bay after sustaining a hamstring injury in Sunday’s 19-11 loss versus Indianapolis.

Fellow safety and special teams player Sherrick McManis is listed as doubtful with an ailing hamstring.

Rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney has been declared as questionable for Thursday’s game with a shoulder injury.

–Field Level Media