TAMPA — The first part of Leonard Fournette’s offseason centered around his destination for 2022. That was solved when he signed a new three-year deal with the Bucs.
The next stage, between minicamp and training camp, focused on his weight. He reported to minicamp about 10 pounds over what he defined as his range. That storyline only swelled in the seven weeks between rounds of organized team activities.
Now, six sessions into training camp, which he started by reportedly weighing in at 245 pounds, Fournette said he’s in “great shape.”
“At the end of the day, (people are) gonna try to find anything when it’s not football and nothing is going on just to make it a big deal,” Fournette said Tuesday.
Fournette said any of his prior coaches would agree his offseason frame will “blow up” and “get big. He attributed that to “big genes.” But Fournette added he knew there was a goal he wanted to reach entering camp. It’d allow him to “come back in shape, come back better, let the noise be outside noise.”
To accomplish that, Fournette worked out around 7-8 a.m. before sometimes returning in the evening to complete two-a-day plans. It pushed him both mentally and physically while fighting through the fatigue and soreness that followed, he said.
It’s allowed him to continue progressing in the Bucs’ system heading into his third year with the team. Head coach Todd Bowles said Tuesday that Fournette’s “endurance being an every-down back” has impressed him. When Fournette started his career with the Jaguars, he didn’t need to play all three downs because T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory complemented their run-based philosophy, Fournette said.
His development has also included improvements picking up blitzes and catching receptions out of the backfield.
“He was a great pass-catcher when he came out of college — he just didn’t get the volume,” Bowles said. “So now you’re seeing the volume of that and his versatile game that you can’t just crowd out the box because he can catch the ball.”
This offseason, the Bucs drafted Rachaad White with a third-round pick, and the former Arizona State running back is always asking the veteran questions, Fournette said. But even with the extra competition, Fournette said he wants to “pass down the line” and help out as much as possible. He understands White’s desire to start and earn playing time as a rookie, because he had the same approach in Jacksonville, too.
For a running back who’s acquired a handful of nicknames throughout his career, the latest shouted from fans during training camp reflects Fournette’s return to his desired physical shape and continued depth-chart edge: “Skinny Lenny.”
“I don’t know where that name came from … ,” Fournette said. “I’m just grateful for all the names.”
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