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Leonard Fournette ‘extremely frustrated’ at being replaced, CBS reports

Rookie Rachaad White had to console the veteran, NFL on CBS’ Tracy Wolfson reported Sunday.
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (7) is stopped by Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner during the second half of Tampa Bay's 16-13 triumph Sunday. Fournette was held to only 19 yards on nine carries.
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (7) is stopped by Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner during the second half of Tampa Bay's 16-13 triumph Sunday. Fournette was held to only 19 yards on nine carries. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Nov. 7, 2022|Updated Nov. 7, 2022

TAMPA — Bucs coach Todd Bowles said he was unaware of a report during CBS’ broadcast of Sunday’s game against the Rams indicating that tailback Leonard Fournette was “extremely frustrated” for being held out of a drive late in the first half.

Veteran CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson reported that Fournette — who finished with only 19 yards on nine carries — expressed his frustration after rookie backup Rachaad White was employed on a 10-play drive ending with Ryan Succop’s 52-yard field goal attempt getting blocked.

White had five carries for 18 yards on the drive, while third-string back Ke’Shawn Vaughn was stopped for a 1-yard loss on his lone carry. Wolfson reported that White, who led the Bucs with 27 yards on eight handoffs, consoled Fournette afterward, telling the 27-year-old veteran, “We need you.”

“I didn’t see or hear anything about that,” Bowles said Monday.

The incident raised a mild red flag considering Fournette’s recent history. After signing with the Bucs in September 2020, Fournette — who had put together two 1,000-yard seasons in Jacksonville — became disgruntled with his limited role and even was a healthy scratch in a Week 14 win against the Vikings.

A candid conversation with then-coach Bruce Arians helped Fournette refocus, and he flourished during the team’s Super Bowl run after starter Ronald Jones was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in mid-December.

After totaling 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, Fournette agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract in March but has struggled to produce this fall for an offense that ranks last in the NFL in rushing (60.7 yards per game).

Related: Fans aren't the only ones scrutinizing Byron Leftwich's play-calling

Since running for 127 yards on 21 carries in an opening-night win against the Cowboys, Fournette has averaged only 2.8 yards per attempt (100 carries, 278 yards) with two rushing touchdowns. White is averaging 3.2 yards per handoff (32 carries, 103 yards) in that same stretch but has only 20 catches out of the backfield compared to Fournette’s 42.

In Sunday’s 16-13 win, the team totaled 51 yards on 20 carries.

“Some good, some bad from the run production,” Bowles said. “We missed a few blocks here and there, I think that had a lot to do with it. Again, we’re making an effort to do it, but not at the expense of losing the ball game. So we’re going to continue to work on it and go from there.”

No challenge needed?

Rookie punter Jake Camarda’s career night might have reached a mythical level had his fourth-quarter punt, which appeared to land inches shy of the goal line, not been ruled a touchback by officials.

Bowles didn’t challenge the ruling, which resulted in Camarda being credited with a 66-yard punt. “Well, the ref came over and told me that they couldn’t tell (if the ball hit the line), and they watched the replay and couldn’t tell,” the coach said. “They weren’t going to change it, so there was no need to challenge it.”

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Camarda averaged 59.5 yards on six attempts, tied for the highest gross average in a single game (with a minimum six attempts) in NFL history. For good measure, he also had two tackles.

“No, I am not OK with (Camarda tackling),” Bowles said. “We have to do a better job with our coverage unit sealing up the middle of the field.”

Miscellaneous

Bowles said he’s not aware of any significant injuries sustained during the game but will have a better idea Wednesday, when the team begins practicing for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks in Munich, Germany. ... Sunday’s contest will be Bowles’ second game in Germany; he was a 49ers safety when San Francisco topped Chicago, 21-7, in a preseason game in Berlin in 1991. ... Bowles said Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner’s block of a 52-yard Ryan Succop field-goal try was clean. Wagner essentially hurdled the front line of the Bucs punting unit for an easy deflection. “We have ways to block it,” Bowles added. “We should have gotten a hand up there, stop somebody from going over.”

Audible

“We traveled overseas with the Jets to play in London (in 2015). The toilet tissue we had to bring, because it was a lot harder over there than it was over here.” — Bowles on the hygiene challenge encountered during his previous overseas NFL trip

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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