Bucs' Leonard Fournette Won't Play vs. Eagles; Lavonte David Activated

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 15, 2022

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) gets tripped up by New Orleans Saints defensive back Jordan Miller (36) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
AP Photo/Jason Behnken

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will get two key players back for Sunday's playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it isn't all good news for the reigning champions.

The NFC South team announced it activated running back Giovani Bernard and linebacker Lavonte David from injured reserve. However, as ESPN's Jenna Laine noted, running back Leonard Fournette, who hasn't played since a Dec. 19 loss to the New Orleans Saints because of a hamstring injury, will not be activated.

Fournette was a playoff hero for Tampa Bay last season, scoring a touchdown in the wild-card win over the Washington Football Team, the divisional-round win over the New Orleans Saints, the NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers and the Super Bowl triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs.

He also had at least four catches in all four of those postseason games, so Tom Brady will be without another key target while wide receiver Chris Godwin is also out with a torn ACL.

The Buccaneers also previously announced Ronald Jones II will miss Sunday's game, which leaves Bernard and Ke'Shawn Vaughn as the primary running backs.

Bernard is more of a pass-catching option out of the backfield with just eight carries in 12 games compared to 23 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns. That figures to clear the way for Vaughn to be the primary early-down option against a solid Eagles defense that was ninth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.

Vaughn is a second-year player from Vanderbilt who was not much of a factor in the early portion of his career, but he has assumed more responsibility with so many injuries in the backfield.

He had seven carries for 70 yards and one touchdown on Dec. 26 against the Carolina Panthers and scored in the rematch in the regular-season finale.

David's return from a foot sprain is key for the Tampa Bay defense, though, considering he is one of the leaders of the unit that will be tasked with slowing down quarterback Jalen Hurts.

The linebacker appeared in 12 games this season and finished with 97 tackles, three passes defended, two forced fumbles, two sacks and one fumble recovery. He surely would have gone over 100 tackles for the ninth time in his career if he remained healthy throughout the campaign.

David and the Buccaneers defense may have to lead the way in their title defense with multiple important offensive players sidelined.