On RB Leonard Fournette: “In a good place”

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette reacts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette reacts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Jaguars like what they hear from Leonard Fournette.

That has been evident this week at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, with Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell lauding the second-year running back.

“I really believe he’s in a good place,” Marrone said Wednesday.

Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, followed a standout rookie season with a second season that was difficult on and off the field. But he is following that season with what appears to be a focused, diligent offseason – and that has the Jaguars optimistic.

“I think Leonard is in a good spot,” Caldwell said Wednesday.

That includes a good feeling about Fournette’s offseason training. Fournette is working out at the University of Wyoming this offseason with Wyoming director of sports performance Ben Iannacchione, with whom Fournette worked at Louisiana State University.

“He has been in the building,” Marrone said. “He has been working out, working hard. Obviously when he told me about Wyoming, I was like, ‘Wyoming?’ He might be the first player ever, nothing against Wyoming, but the first player ever … I was like, ‘Wyoming? Why are you going to Wyoming?’

“I think hopefully the only thing I can look at is the sole focus for himself. To go out there and train and really get away. I believe him, and I am excited for him when he comes back.”

While Fournette’s issues last season were well-documented, Marrone reiterated this week what he said in January following a meeting with Fournette – that he believes Fournette is prepared to take a better approach moving forward.

“When you’re injured, you don’t want to be,” Marrone said. “You feel like you’re letting people down. You’re letting not just your teammates, the fans, management, coaches, family – there’s a lot of weight of the world on your shoulders when you’re not going out there.

“Then, you have to stand on the sideline and watch your team out there without you – for each person that’s a very difficult situation on how to handle. After the season was over, we were able to sit down. We had conversations about where we’re going, what we want to do, how he fits in, how I can do a better job for him, what we need to do get ourselves available and playing the way we want to play.

“I’m excited for him and I think he’s excited about coming back and playing.”

Fournette, who rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2017, missed six of the first eight games this past season with a hamstring injury sustained in the first half of a Week 1 victory over the New York Giants, also missing the regular-season finale at Houston. He showed the same flashes he showed at times as a rookie but finished the season with 439 yards and five touchdowns on 133 carries.

He also was suspended for one game following his involvement in an on-field fight in a November 25 loss at Buffalo.

Fournette’s sideline behavior during the season finale drew the ire of Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, who issued a statement after the game saying: “I am disappointed in the behavior today from [running back] T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.”

The Jaguars following the suspension reportedly voided the guarantees in Fournette’s rookie contract, something Caldwell declined to discuss Wednesday saying: “I don’t want to get in to that specific stuff right now. It’s kind of a league issue, and I think that’s between Leonard and the club and the league, and we will leave it at that.”

Marrone said Wednesday the impact of injuries on Fournette shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I think last year was tough with the injuries,” Marrone said. “I think anytime that you are young and you have a lot of expectations put on you … then I think when you have some injuries that it is tough to deal with. It is a tough situation for anyone, not just Leonard. I think after the season was over it has been noted that we sat down and spoke, he and I, and I really believe he is in a good place. He has been in a good place.”

Said Caldwell, “I know a lot was made out of the end-of-the-season stuff, but he seems like he is in a good place. He is working out. I know he is taking his nutrition and his workouts seriously. We will see when he comes in April with the rest of the veterans and in the OTAs.”

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