Sources: Fournette ‘likely’ to IR; Bucs sign L. Bell

NFL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette is “likely” to be placed on injured reserve because of the hamstring injury that left him on crutches Sunday night, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Fournette would miss the rest of the regular season, but a source said he is expected to return for the playoffs.

With Fournette sidelined, the Buccaneers are signing Le’Veon Bell, pending a physical, to back up Ronald Jones, a source confirmed to ESPN. Bell is expected to be in Tampa on Wednesday morning, and he will go to the active roster and not the practice squad, according to sources.

Fournette suffered the injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Last week, the Bucs placed veteran running back Giovani Bernard, their third-down back, on injured reserve after he suffered an MCL sprain to his knee and a stretch tendon in his hip. A source told ESPN that Bernard “could be back in time for the playoffs.”

But without Fournette and Bernard, the Bucs had Jones, who had been unseated in his starting role by Fournette last year, and second-year running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Jones’ forte has not been pass-catching, and Vaughn lacks experience.

In Fournette’s absence, the Bucs were limited in their short passing game at running back against the Saints. Jones rushed for 63 yards on eight carries and caught two passes for 8 receiving yards. Vaughn had 19 rushing yards on three carries.

Bell, 29 and a former All-Pro, last played for the Baltimore Ravens, where in five games he rushed for 83 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns and caught one pass on two targets.

The news of Bell’s signing was first reported by the NFL Network.

Bucs inside linebacker and longtime captain Lavonte David, who left Sunday’s game late in the fourth quarter and did not return, was diagnosed with a foot sprain, a source told ESPN. The source said it’s possible David could be back in time for the final regular-season game against the Carolina Panthers, but his recovery time could take as long as four weeks.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler contributed to this report.

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