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Bucs running back Leonard Fournette trending toward facing Rams

Sportsnaut
Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) looks on prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) looks on prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette remains on injured reserve but appears increasingly likely to play against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Fournette was spotted during the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Backfield mate Ronald Jones, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was out of his boot on Thursday but did not practice.

Because he is still on IR, Fournette was not listed on the official injury report. But offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich sounded optimistic after practice that Fournette will be ready to play for the first time since injuring his hamstring on Dec. 19.

“We’re still using this week to see if he’s healthy and how healthy he is,” Leftwich said. “It’s really tough right now to try and put a workload on him without really getting through the end of the week.

“I’ll have a better idea on what he can do as we get more towards Friday. But right now, (it’s) just good to see him out there and trying to work his way back in to do what he’s doing. Once he’s healthy, we’ll expect Lenny to be Lenny.”

Fournette led Tampa Bay in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns.

With Fournette and Jones sidelined last weekend against Philadelphia, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard combined to rush for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries. But Leftwich would love to get his workhorse back in time to face the Rams.

“It’s hard to do better from the running back position for us and what we ask him to do,” Leftwich said. “We ask him to catch it, we ask him to run it and we ask him to pass protect.

“He’s tough to get down on the ground. It’s good to be able to have a guy like that that can run it the way that he runs it and catch it the way he can catch it, and play with the football IQ that he has. Lenny is a unique guy.”

The Bucs continue to have significant concerns along the offensive line as center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs did not practice for the second consecutive day as they recover from ankle injuries. Backup tackle Josh Wells (quad) was listed as a limited participant.

“They’re a lot of tough dudes,” guard Ali Marpet said of the Bucs’ offensive line. “I think at this point in the year in order to play offensive line, you’re always going to be dealing with stuff.”

–Field Level Media