On Monday, the Jacksonville Jaguars waived fourth-year running back, and former fourth-overall selection Leonard Fournette. A surprise to many after a turbulent summer filled with trade rumors and a change of the guard.
While it was an expected shock to the fanbase, it also came as a shock to many in the Jaguars locker room, including one of its newest additions, and fellow member of the team’s offensive backfield in eighth-year running back Chris Thompson.
“Yeah, we were shocked about it,” Thompson told reporters via virtual video conference on Tuesday.
“He came in the room a couple of minutes before our team meeting and let us know that he had gotten released. We didn’t believe it. We thought he was joking because, you know, he laughs and jokes with us all the time. It wasn’t really until [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone said it in the team meeting that we really believed it. It was a shocker for everybody.”
Fournette’s release makes sense to come as a shock. Not only did he accumulate 1,600 yards from scrimmage in 2019, accounting for a large portion of the team’s offensive production, but the timing is perhaps what creates the waves it does.
The season begins in only a little over a week, training camps have wrapped up, and both Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell have stated the team was moving forward with Fournette.
Now, with Fournette out of the picture, and currently a street free agent after clearing waivers on Tuesday, the Jaguars are finished with yet another chapter, beginning anew with a diverse and intriguing running backs room, including Thompson.
While Thompson feels the move was “unfortunate,” and mentioned the shock the entire room is going through, he does feel good about his role moving forward, and has an eye on more snaps potentially coming his way.
“I think for me, I’m excited about it,” Thompson said about his potential snap increase. “I would say I am. I think there’s going to be more opportunity for me and to be able to show what I can do [and] be able to show the fanbase and the people that brought me here what I’m capable of doing.”
Thompson has been working hard every day under the expectation and awareness that an injury at the position could occur, something he knows about all too well. Regardless of the circumstances, the eight-year veteran knew his number could be called at anytime.
“That’s just part of the game so you never know. You can’t sit back and say, ‘Hey, Leonard is going to be the guy. He’s going to take all [of] the reps or whatever’ and then something like this just happened and it shocked all of us. So, for me [and] the way I prepared, the decision came as a shock, but the opportunity, not so much.”
Being the elder-statesman of the group, Thompson has high expectations set by not only himself, but also running backs coach Terry Robiskie who feels his leadership will be important due to the youth and inexperience at the position this season.
“In that room it’s phenomenal because to have Chris in there, any time that we’re going in and installing something new, especially with so many other things going on in the world, so many distractions today,” Robiskie said on Tuesday via virtual video conference. “With everything that’s going on with the world, the environment, the society—so many other things going on in the world today, it’s a true blessing to have Chris in there.”
While both offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Robiskie have coached for a long time in the NFL, they’ve never been on the same coaching staff. Having someone who understands the offense and can become a bridge between the position group and the intricacies of the offense itself, it’s vital.
“To have Chris in there to just clarify something that may be as simple as 2 yards wider, 2 yards deeper,” said Robiskie. “To have Chris in there who has done it and has done it consistently at a high level in this offense, is a plus. So, Chris is a blessing and I’m happy as [heck] that he’s here.”