JACKSONVILLE – Call this day a tone-setter.
Leonard Fournette on Friday spoke to the media for the first time this offseason – a tone-setting moment if ever there was one.
"This is a new year, and we have a new team," the third-year running back said after Day 3 practice of 2019 organized team activities at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.
Fournette sounded like a new player Friday, which makes sense: Spring is turning to summer – and there's no time like late May for fresh NFL outlooks and forward-looking storylines.
"I put a lot on myself this offseason – getting my body right, and just mentally coming back ready to play football," Fournette said.
Fournette's media availability Friday was his first since the end of what for he and the Jaguars was a difficult 2018 season. While the Jaguars struggled to 5-11, Fournette – the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft – struggled with injuries, on-field ineffectiveness and questions over his attitude. And make no mistake:
Just as Fournette sees this is as a new year for him and the Jaguars, the Jaguars see this as a new year for Fournette.
"I don't want anyone to hold what happened in my past against me here – for hearsay or whatever," first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said Thursday of Fournette. "Judge me on what I am now. That's how I take my approach with the players as well."
Fournette also was a topic Friday before practice when new running backs coach Terry Robiskie spoke to the media. A 38-year coaching veteran, Robiskie was brought in to work with the position overall – but also to be a positive, veteran influence on Fournette.
"He's cool," Fournette said of Robiskie. "He's old-school. He's going to push us no matter what."
Robiskie on Friday fielded multiple questions about Fournette. Some focused on their relationship, with both being from Louisiana. Some focused on the challenge of a veteran coach reaching a younger generation of players. Robiskie was good on both, agreeing with Fournette that the Louisiana connection was strong. He said reaching young players indeed is a challenge – but said Fournette was no more challenging than many of his former players, including Atlanta Falcons All-Pro receiver Julio Jones.
Robiskie was most interesting when discussed his initial conversations with Fournette. Far from expressing concern over Fournette's attitude, Robiskie sounded like a coach impressed with the player's approach.
"I didn't have to sit down and talk to him as far as my thought process on it," Robiskie said. "It was interesting sitting down talking to him and listening to him say, 'Coach, I want to be the best running back in the NFL. Coach, I want to rush for 2,000 yards. Coach, I want to lead this team. Coach, I want to take this team, I want to take this city to the Super Bowl. Coach, I want to be a part of this when this city goes to the Super Bowl. I want to be a part of it. I want to lead it. I don't want to be a part of the puzzle. I want to be the puzzle.'
"That was a good part of sitting with him, just sitting down and listening to him talk and having himself express himself as what he wants to do and the things he would like to do. It was great."
To listen to Fournette on Friday was to listen to a player moving forward. He stopped short of calling himself rededicated – because, as he put it, "I've always been dedicated. You can't rededicate yourself to something you've lived your whole life." But he did talk of hitting the "reset button" after last season and getting back to the foundation of where he began.
He said he currently is around 226 pounds, which is about where he expects to play next season. He looked fit and has looked quick and fast early in OTAs.
Fournette, too, talked of his relationship with DeFilippo and new quarterback Nick Foles. He and Foles have spent extensive time together after practice to review a playbook, something Fournette said he initiated with Foles.
"We're taking time with each other, getting it down pat, so when we're in the huddle we don't have any misunderstandings," he said.
That's the sort of thing the Jaguars wanted and needed to hear from Fournette this offseason, and that's what he delivered Friday: a focused player very much ready to move forward.
"It's a new year for a lot of us," he said. "It's a new everything. It's a clean start for a lot of us guys. We're not focused on the past. The past is the past. Some things I did in the offseason, I've admitted I was wrong. We've moved on. We're in a good place right now. We're in a good spot."
Indeed, this was a tone-setting day if ever there was one.
And as of late May, the tone set by Fournette hardly could be more encouraging.