TAMPA ― Bucs running back Rachaad White will make his second NFL start Sunday at Cleveland. He’s earned it, but this time it’s also by default.
Leonard Fournette on Saturday was downgraded from doubtful to out with a hip injury and will not play against the Browns.
Fournette was injured late in the Bucs’ 21-16 win against the Seahawks Nov. 13 in Germany and did not finish the game. He was limited in practice all week.
To replace Fournette, the Bucs activated running back Giovani Bernard from injured reserve. Bernard appeared in the first two games of the season, playing exclusively on special teams. But he injured his ankle and began his 21-day practice window just this week.
In addition, the team elevated linebacker Ulysees Gilbert from the practice squad and waived linebacker J.J. Russell.
Fournette missed the last three games of the 2021 regular season and wild-card win over Philadelphia with a hamstring injury.
White made the first start of his young career two weeks ago in Germany and responded with 105 yards rushing on 22 carries.
“I think it was excellent to see him go out there and play an extended number of snaps ... the most snaps he’s played,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “I don’t know if he was ready for that many earlier. We saw the gifts that he had early, but we knew that he had to get to that point where he could handle that type of load.
“He’s there now, so it was good to see. It was good to see him go out there and play, show the skill set that he’s got, show the skill set we like.”
Bernard played in 12 games with the Bucs last season after signing as a free agent. He rushed only eight times for 58 yards but caught 23 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bucs also could have a bigger role on third down for running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who had a key catch in the win over Seattle.
Rain is forecast in Cleveland on Sunday, so it could be a game with plenty of rushing attempts for both teams.
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