JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has said his sprained right ankle is fine and the injury he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars' 27-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday is "nothing serious."
That might very well be the case, but even a minor injury to the rookie first-round pick could be devastating to the Jaguars' chances of keeping pace in the AFC South -- and their chances of winning the division would be drastically smaller without him.
Fournette is the key to the Jaguars' offense and team simply cannot afford for him to be off the field for an extended period of time. Fournette is second in the NFL in rushing (596 yards) and carries (130) and also has 15 catches for 136 yards. He accounts for 36.4 percent of the Jaguars' total offensive yardage. That's more than any other non-quarterback in the NFL except for Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt (38.1 percent) and Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown (38.1 percent).
Even if Fournette is still only dealing with a few small lingering effects from the injury, the Jaguars will be careful with him this week. He isn't expected to practice on Wednesday.
"I usually listen to what the doctors and trainers say," coach Doug Marrone said. "If the doctors and trainers say, 'Hey, listen, he's limited' then he's going to go in there and be limited rep-wise. If the doctors and trainers say, 'Hey, he's ready to go' then he's ready to go. So most of the time I just go by what they say and then we put that into the practice schedule what they can and cannot do."
Fournette was injured when he was tackled by Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson on a first-down run with 9:58 to play. His foot appeared to get caught underneath him as he was being brought to the ground. He got up and tried to hop to the sideline before he went back to the ground.
The sight of Fournette lying on his back getting attended to by medical personnel certainly quieted the EverBank Field crowd. It also unnerved Marrone until he found out Fournette was cleared to return, though the Jaguars had Chris Ivory on the field for their final drive instead of Fournette.
Marrone isn't sure what to expect out of Fournette's ankle on Wednesday.
"I always get a little concerned," Marrone said. "I like to wait 48 hours because I go back to my car accident deal where you don't feel that well [two days after the accident even if you feel fine immediately after the accident] but I think we'll see."