Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette exited the team’s game against the Seahawks in Munich due to a hip pointer two weeks ago and was unable to get right during Tampa Bay’s bye week. Fournette has been ruled out as the team comes back for a game in Cleveland this week, and Tampa Bay will activate running back Giovani Bernard from injured reserve, providing a little depth at the position, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
Fournette started out the season as the Buccaneers’ top rusher. As the season has progressed, though, third-round rookie running back Rachaad White has earned more and more carries, slowly taking away from Fournette’s role. The trend has advanced to the point that White was named Tampa Bay’s starting running back when the team traveled to Germany. Fournette still contributed to the team’s win, rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown but was removed from the rotation due to the hip injury.
Bernard’s role has drastically diminished since his tenure in Cincinnati. In his first year with the Buccaneers last season, Bernard’s carries dropped from 124 in 2020 to only eight. Tampa Bay utilized the veteran solely as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Even that role seemed to diminish this season as Bernard only appeared on special teams during the two games before going on IR.
With Fournette out, White will remain unchallenged as the team’s starting running back this week. Third-year back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, whose role has also drastically decreased this season with the emergence of White, should serve as the No. 2 running back behind White with Bernard contributing as a potential third-down receiving back, if at all on offense.
In order to make room for Bernard on the roster, the Buccaneers has waived linebacker J.J. Russell. Their linebacker depth won’t be depleted, though, as practice squad linebacker Ulysees Gilbert will be a gameday elevation against the Browns.