As of Sunday night, the expectation within the league office was that Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette would not be suspended. Between Sunday night and Monday night, that changed.
The NFL decided to impose a one-game suspension on Fournette in response to his decision to both leave the bench area on Sunday and fight with Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson.
NFL V.P. of football operations Jon Runyan issued the suspension under the two rules that Fournette violated -- the rule against unsportsmanlike conduct, and the unnecessary roughness rules, which prohibits throwing a punch at an opponent. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, others in the league office saw it differently, but it’s Runyan’s job to make the final determination.
“Sportsmanship is the cornerstone of the game and the League will not tolerate game-related misconduct that conveys a lack of respect for the game itself and those involved in it,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Fournette. “Video of the incident shows that you were not a participant in the play and that you ran from your sideline to the opposite side of the field to insert yourself as an active participant in a fight. Once you entered the fight area, you struck a member of the opposing team. Your actions adversely reflected on the NFL and have no place in the game.”
Fournette will have the right to appeal the suspension within three business days. The hearing, if there’s an appeal, will be conducted by Derrick Brooks or James Thrash.
Fournette undoubtedly will appeal, especially if his contract contains language invalidating the remainder of the guarantees under his rookie deal in the event of a suspension. If such language is in the contract (remember the Roquan Smith controversy?), then more than $7 million in guarantees becomes wiped out, allowing the Jaguars to release Fournette after the season with no further financial obligation.
Any other discipline arising from the incident, which resulted in the ejections of Fournette and Lawson, will be handled in the form of fines.