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Buccaneers Leonard Fournette 'Got My Stuff Together' Under Bruce Arians

Tampa Bay's running back recently recalled the pivotal moment in his relationship with his now-retired head coach

Leonard Fournette wasn't the first player the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added to their roster after Bruce Arians became the head coach in 2019 that drew some concern and even criticism.

But he did turn out to be one of the most critical players to join the Bucs, and the birth of "Playoff Lenny" eventually gave rise to "Lombardi Lenny" as the franchise won its second Super Bowl in franchise history. 

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If you followed the team as a fan, media, or just an interested party in 2020, then you know there was a crossroads Fournette came to during that regular season. 

He was playing second-fiddle to Ronald Jones, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, and wasn't happy, wasn't productive, and looked like he wouldn't be a part of the team's future for much longer. 

This fact strained the relationship between coach and player. 

"It was rocky," Fournette said of his relationship with Arians early on when he recently spoke to Rich Eisen of the Rich Eisen Show. "Because I wasn't starting. Everybody knows the story when he came to me about playing he was like, 'Man, what do you want? I don't want to release you, but if you want me to release you, I would...Do you want to be a part of something special?' That's how it happened, I got my stuff together, and we won a Super Bowl."

The love between Fournette and Arians may have come later, but in his interview with Eisen, his respect and appreciation came first when asked about the surprising news that Arians was stepping down as head coach of the Buccaneers. 

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"Yes, I was," Fournette said when asked if he was surprised when Arians retired from coaching. "It was very unexpected. Nobody was expecting that at all...He text me a couple of minutes before and told me he was stepping down...he's one of the best coaches I've been around. He's a stand-up guy, hard-nosed, old-school coach. I love everything about him."

With Tampa Bay's roster still mostly intact from the championship run of 2020 and NFC South Division winning 2021 campaign, the team is once again favored as one of the top teams in the conference. 

And while the head coach is different, the atmosphere and goals are certainly the same. 

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"I've always loved coach Bowles," Fournette said of his new head coach, Todd Bowles. "Even when I played against him when he was the head coach with the Jets. He's always been a standup guy, a tremendous guy, and I love playing for him."

The running back some didn't want wearing a Buccaneers uniform became the player who almost didn't see the end of his first season with the team, then grew into a champion who is now looked at as a pillar the team's championship chances are standing on in 2022. 

Quite the story, and it's not even close to over yet.

For more on this and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers check out James Yarcho and David Harrison on the Locked On Bucs Podcast!