The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will "wait and see" if running back Ronald Jones II will be available to practice and eventually play against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional round matchup, head coach Bruce Arians said.
Tampa Bay initially ruled Jones questionable due to a quad injury for the remainder of the game in the first quarter of the Wild Card game Saturday night vs. the Washington Football Team.
Jones was listed on the team's injury report prior to the game with a quad and finger injury but was a full participant in practice all week long, according to the team.
“He looked fine Thursday and Friday," Arians said Monday. "It was sore – I don’t know if it was the plane or whatever, [but] it swelled a little bit. He didn’t feel like he could open up, so he basically didn’t play."
Jones was spotted on the bench wearing his jersey and pads but never entered the game for the Bucs.
In place of Jones on Saturday, Leonard Fournette started at running back with Ke'Shawn Vaughn serving as the backup.
Tampa Bay had success rushing the ball against a stout Washington defense, despite not having Jones in the first half. Fournette rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries and caught four passes for 39 yards, while Vaughn rushed five times for 21 yards.
“I thought Leonard played his best game as a [Buccaneer]," Arians said Monday.
Jones fractured his pinky finger during Tampa Bay's Week 14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Following that injury, the third-year pro ended up on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list and missed two straight games.
Jones was able to get back out on the field in the regular-season finale against the Atlanta Falcons. Jones rushed the ball 12 times for 78 yards and one touchdown following the two-week break in the action.
The first time the Bucs played the Saints, Jones rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries. However, the second time in early November, the Saints completely shut down Jones and the Tampa Bay running back room in route to a 38-3 win over the Bucs.
Arians explained why this happened and explained what needs to change for Sunday's playoff game if the Bucs want to advance.
“The second game was strictly [falling behind]. The first game, we ran the ball pretty well at times," Arians said Monday. "I keep going back to the turnovers, but when we played them in the last two years, we’ve turned the ball over too many times and given them too many opportunities. If we don’t turn the ball over, it’s a different ballgame.”
Jones finished the regular season with 978 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground. He caught 28 passes for 165 yards hauling in one touchdown catch.