Training Camp 2020: "I'm not a jerk," Fournette says

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette carries the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

JACKSONVILLE – Leonard Fournette wanted something made clear Monday.

"I'm not a jerk," he said.

He wanted something else made clear, too.

"When it comes to football and winning … I'm all in for that," he said.

Fournette, the Jaguars' fourth-year running back, made a point to say these and other things Monday during his first media availability of 2020 Training Camp. Speaking via teleconference, said he wanted to address "a lot of things, especially that the media came out and said I was an angry guy."

Fournette said much of that perception came from frustration. The Jaguars, after a 10-6 AFC South Championship season in Fournette's rookie 2017, season went 5-11 in 2018 and 6-10 last season.

"Would you be angry if you're losing week in and week out by six and three points?" Fournette said. "That is one of my biggest problems: I do get upset when we lose, and it takes me a while to get over it. I expect, like anybody else … that you put the work in, and you want a 'W.' A lot of times last year it didn't go like that.

"I guess they kind of misconstrue that. They thought I was just angry. Don't get me wrong: I was upset from the losing. That's just the winner in me. That's any guy, I feel like, who plays at this professional level of sports."

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone on Monday called Fournette's mindset early in training camp "great."

"He's done a nice job," Marrone said. "He looks good. He's in shape. He's working hard. He looks good out there. He really does."

Fournette's mindset entering 2020 has been a topic early in camp in part because of reports that the team explored trading Fournette around the 2020 NFL Draft in April. The team also did not pick up the fifth-year option on the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, meaning he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason if the sides do not agree on a contract extension.

"I don't put too much stress over it," he said.

Marrone said he has not spoken to Fournette about the reports, saying: "I think you have to be careful. If you're a head coach and you're going to chase every rumor or everything that's out there … once you do that, if becomes valid – if that makes sense."

Fournette on Monday also said he has spoken to quarterback Gardner Minsew II about comments Fournette made on social media in the offseason suggesting the team should acquire quarterback Cam Newton, who was then a free agent and who later signed with the New England Patriots.

"He knew where I was coming from," Fournette said. "At the end of the day, I want to win. We came from a 2017 season that was 10-6 and we had talent all over the board. Then, the next couple of years we went down the drain."

As for this season, Fournette said his focus is singular. He said he's not worried about his contract – "everything's going to take care of itself" – and that he feels good entering camp after an offseason spent training in different cities in an effort to steer clear of the COVID-19.

"I was sort of on a World Tour – wherever 'Corona' was, I ran away from it," he said, laughing and adding that he trained first in Atlanta, then Baton Rouge, La., then Dallas. "After that, I just worked out at home. It was just following me everywhere I went."

Fournette, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of his first three NFL seasons, also said he likes the Jaguars' new offense – and the man installing the new offense. The Jaguars in the offseason parted ways with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and hired in his place Jay Gruden, Washington's head coach from 2014-2019.

"He's going to do a great job of passing the ball around and showing guy's talent," Fournette said of Gruden. "He has a great personality. I love him as a coach. He's a lifting guy. He's positive in everything he does. He's smiling and joking 24-7."

Fournette said that's how he is, too – and that he hopes to change any perception to the contrary. Perhaps that will prevent situations such as Monday, when Fournette said newly acquired running back Chris Thompson told him following a conditioning session, "Bro, you're nothing like people say you are…"

What do they say?

"Like I was always upset about things," Fournette said, smiling and adding. "I'm always joking, playing … that's just me. It [the perception that he always was angry] got out hand and misconstrued. I just wanted to get it out there."

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