TAMPA — It’s still a couple of weeks until the NFL trade deadline, but already there is speculation that the Bucs may be willing to part with running back Ronald Jones.
Leonard Fournette has taken over the starting job, having averaged 100 or more yards from scrimmage in three consecutive games. Jones hasn’t eclipsed more than six rushing attempts or 27 yards in any of the Bucs’ six games.
But coach Bruce Arians made it clear Wednesday that his team isn’t interested in entertaining offers for Jones before the Nov. 2 deadline.
“No, none at all,” Arians said. “It’s a long season, and just that scenario that happened last year and still with COVID, you can’t have enough good backs.”
A year ago, Jones was on his way to a 1,000-yard season when he caught COVID-19 and missed the final two games of the regular season. He also injured a quad muscle in warmups prior to the start of the wild-card game at Washington.
Fournette, who was nearly released a month earlier for his poor attitude, took over and earned the nicknames “Playoff Lenny” and “Lombardi Lenny.”
Running back is a high-injury position, which is why the Bucs are stocked with Fournette, Jones, Giovani Bernard and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the only one of the bunch under contract for 2022.
This season is all about repeating as Super Bowl champs, and fetching a mid- to late-round draft pick for Jones would not help in that effort.
Johnson ready to launch
The ankle injury suffered by Antonio Brown at Philadelphia last Thursday has forced him to miss practice. Brown may still be able to play Sunday against the Bears, but if for some reason he cannot, Tyler Johnson is ready for the spotlight.
The second-year pro from Minnesota made a clutch catch in the playoffs and forced a pass-interference penalty in the NFC Championship at Green Bay that saved the game.
Johnson has been used sparingly this season and has only seven catches for 110 yards and no touchdowns.
“He’s finally in great shape and really understands what he’s doing,” Arians said. “He’s playing very fast. He ran by a guy, and we missed him getting back outside. He’s still learning some little things, but I really like where he’s at right now.”
Three-peat for Dean?
Jamel Dean has never had interceptions in three straight games. Not Pop Warner, high school or college.
He has a chance to accomplish that feat Sunday against the Bears.
Dean had interceptions Oct. 10 against the Miami Dolphins and last week against the Eagles but also was called for a 48-yard pass interference penalty.
“The difference between those plays is I panicked on one, and the second one I didn’t,” Dean said. “I think I got my head around earlier, so I was able to track the ball then. Normally when you make a mistake like that, teams will come right back after you to see if you’ve corrected with it.”
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