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Buccaneers almost cut Leonard Fournette before epic playoff run

Playoff Lenny almost never happened.

Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette played a massive role in the playoffs, helping the Buccaneers reach and win the Super Bowl. According to coach Bruce Arians, Fournette nearly didn't make it to the postseason with the club.

Following his release from Jacksonville, where he was mostly a workhorse for his first three seasons, Fournette landed in Tampa and shared backfield snaps behind Ronald Jones. The latter was clearly the better back for the bulk of the regular season. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, Fournette had 69 rushing attempts for 271 yards and three TDs, while adding 28 catches for 171 yards.

Fournette was unhappy with his role and made inactive for the Bucs' Week 14 win over the Minnesota Vikings -- a victory that would kickstart an eight-game winning streak to the Super Bowl. The next day, Arians had a frank conversation with the running back about his choice: Deal with the circumstances, or we can move on.

"I said, 'This is your situation. It can change at the drop of a hat,'" Arians told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "But this is your situation. Either embrace it, or you say, 'Cut me.' I said, 'What do you want? Because this is a very special team that you're part of. I think you've got a feeling of that. Just see if you can hang in there to see what happens.' And he did, and I'm really proud of him."

The rest is playoff history.

Fournette got his shot when Jones went on the reserve/COVID-19 list the next two weeks. Then Jones suffered a quad injury before the postseason, opening the door further for Playoff Lenny. Fournette capitalized on the opportunity. In four playoff games, he rushed 64 times for 300 yards and three TDs, including 89 yards and a TD in the Super Bowl, and added another 148 yards and another score on 18 catches.

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