TAMPA — Leonard Fournette could step out of the doghouse and into the Bucs’ starting lineup Sunday.
The free-agent running back was inactive as a healthy scratch in Tampa Bay’s 26-14 win over Minnesota this past weekend.
But with Ronald Jones’ status unknown for Sunday’s game at Atlanta due to a broken left pinkie finger, Fournette could be the Bucs’ No. 1 tailback.
Jones had two pins placed in his finger Tuesday. Wednesday, he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
It’s not the same injury as the one suffered by receiver Chris Godwin, who broke his index finger and had 10 pins needed to repair the fracture.
Jones will actually face more contact as a running back than Godwin did at receiver. Godwin missed one game, and Arians said any comparison may be unfair.
“Because of Chris being a receiver and being in space, (he) was able to put that brace on and play‚” Arians said. “He had 10 pins, I think. I don’t think Ronald has more than two. But a running back defending himself, there’s contact every single play and you have to put the ball in your left hand sometime to do that.
“There have been runners who are one-armed runners. I just want to make sure he’s more than capable of defending himself. We’ve got good backs, so we don’t have to push it.”
Despite his benching against the Vikings, Arians said Fournette is in a great spot mentally and ready to go.
”He understood everything last week and he understands everything this week,” Arians said. “He had a great practice today and was into it, so yeah, Leonard’s a pro. Just like everybody else on our team. It’s a week-to-week thing.”
LeSean McCoy served as the Bucs’ third-down back against the Vikings and likely will have that role again Sunday at Atlanta.
“I think (quarterback Tom Brady) trusts all the guys,” Arians said. “Again, each week, each game plan is a little bit different depending on who we’re playing and who’s the best matchups. We’ll just see how it goes and play it by ear each week.”