Leonard Fournette’s offseason could have been more peaceful.
The running back first made some noise by campaigning for his team to pursue then-free agent Cam Newton, even after it had essentially anointed Gardner Minshew as its guy following the trade that sent Nick Foles to Chicago. Not long after, Fournette’s name was mentioned in trade rumors amid an offseason of significant change in Duval County.
Painted as a malcontent by some, Fournette says that’s not who he is. And he wasn’t trying to unseat Minshew, he simply wants success for his team.
“When all of that was going around I kinda took a step back from football and had to realize it’s bigger than that, it’s a lot bigger than that,” Fournette said. “I talked to Gardner during the whole thing, they kind of made it a big deal when I asked for Cam. He understood where I was coming from. At the end of the day, I want to win, like, who doesn’t want to win? We came from a 2017 season with a team who was 10-6, we had talent all over the board and then for the next couple of years, we went down the drain.
“I just want to address a lot of things, too, especially the media came out and said, whoever said I was an angry guy. I mean, for No. 1, would you be angry if you were losing, week in and week out by 63 points? And that is one of my biggest problems. I do get upset at when we lose and it takes me a while to get over it. I expect, just like anybody else, you put the work in and you want a ‘W’ but sometimes, a lot of times last year, it didn’t go like that.
“I guess they kind of misconstrued that and thought I was around here just angry, and don’t get me wrong I was upset from the losing we were doing, but that’s just the winner in me. That’s for any guy I feel like who plays this professional level of sports.”
It’s difficult to reach the peak of one’s sport without an intensely burning competitive fire within you. No one should blame Fournette for wanting to win. Now that he’s had a chance to clear the air and explain himself, perhaps folks will view him differently.
One thing will help more than anything: Winning.
“I’m not no jerk, but when it comes to football and winning, I’m all in for that,” Fournette said.
He’ll get a chance to do just that in 2020 while lining up behind Minshew in new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s offense. Gruden, the former Washington head coach who was fired before the midway point of the 2019 season, is back on an NFL staff as an assistant with an eye on helping Minshew take the next step.
Gruden takes over an offense that finished 26th in scoring but was near the middle of the pack in total rushing yards, finishing 17th. Those numbers are expected to jump with Gruden calling plays.
“Not just me, I think it’s going to let every athlete on the offensive side who has the talent and the ability to make plays,” Fournette said when asked how Gruden would showcase his abilities. “I think he’s going to do a great job of kinda passing that ball around and showing guys talent, you know what I mean?
“He has a great personality, I love him as a coach right now. He’s a uplifting guy, for one, and he’s positive in everything he does. It’s not a day you go around you see him looking sad, he’s smiling, he’s joking 24/7.”
Everything’s hunky-dory in August in Jacksonville (unless your last name is Ngakoue). We’ll check back in October to see how things are going.
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