Why isn’t Leonard Fournette playing in Buccaneers vs. Eagles? Injury update, latest news on veteran RB

The Buccaneers will be without “Playoff Lenny” when the 2022 NFL playoffs begin.

Leonard Fournette will not play for the Bucs in their wild-card matchup against the Eagles. He has dealt with a hamstring injury in recent weeks, but it looked like the veteran running back would have a chance to return before this game.

However, Tampa Bay decided not to activate him from IR on Saturday. That made him inactive for Sunday afternoon’s contest.

The Bucs will now be short on running backs, missing their two best options at the position. They also don’t have two of their top three wide receivers, so Tampa Bay will have to rely on their depth in the game, and Tom Brady, to generate yards.

Why isn’t Fournette playing this week? Here’s what you need to know about why you’re missing the game and when you might be able to return to the Buccaneers’ backfield.

Why isn’t Leonard Fournette playing against the Eagles?

Fournette is still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered during the Buccaneers’ 9-0 Week 15 loss against the Saints. He was placed on IR and missed Tampa Bay’s next three games as a result.

Some were hopeful that Fournette might return from IR before the wild-card round, but the Bucs didn’t feel comfortable enough activating him for this matchup. Backup Ronald Jones (ankle) is also out, so the Bucs will have to rely on Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Le’Veon Bell and Giovani Bernard to create an effective rotation and complement Tom Brady and the passing game.

When will Leonard Fournette return?

fournette returned to training on Wednesday for the Buccaneers, so it doesn’t look like he’s far from back. However, soft-tissue injuries such as hamstring ailments tend to linger, so the Buccaneers will need to make sure Fournette doesn’t suffer a setback as they look to get him back.

That’s why coach Bruce Arians is playing it safe with Fournette, as he detailed to Sarah Walsh of NFL Network.

“It’s just a little (hamstring) strain,” Arians told Walsh. “He wasn’t at full throttle when he really opened up and tried to push off a couple of times. He caught him, so we’re going to be very cautious with him.”

As such, it looks like Fournette, who was expected to potentially play against the Eagles, isn’t too far off to return. The Bucs are just playing it safe. His status in practice will be watched if the Buccaneers advance. While he’s on IR, he won’t show up on Tampa Bay’s practice report, muddying the waters around his availability.

Buccaneers RB Depth Chart

The Buccaneers will likely use a committee approach with Fournette out of action. Lead backup Ronald Jones (ankle) is also out, so Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Le’Veon Bell will handle most of the work between tackles.

Meanwhile, Giovani Bernard is returning from injury in the MCL and will likely serve as the team’s best third-down pass catcher. Bell could take over some of Bernard’s workload if the Bucs look to get Bernard back in action.

Rank Player
one Ke’Shawn Vaughn
two Le’Veon Hood
3 John Bernard