When your sole claim to fame is cold-cocking an opponent after a college football game, it’s a tough thing to separate yourself from and it’s something that tends to follow you around.
But when you start to follow it around is where you start to have real problems…
…because when a reputation precedes you, you are at a disadvantage before you even get where you’re going, and you’re going to have to work twice as hard just to be accepted.
That’s what’s facing new Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount as he attempts to resurrect a short career that dwindled to just about nothing when the Greg Schiano regime took over in Tampa Bay. Affected by the drafting of Boise State running back Doug Martin and under-used in Schiano’s system, the emotional Blount and the rest of the Buccaneers shut it down as they skidded to full stop in last season’s second half.
What does that say about Bill Belichick’s good buddy down in Tampa that his team essentially quit on him down the stretch? Not that any of us should care, except for the fact that it was the whole team and not just Blount – who really had no choice anyway as Schiano used him very sparingly for which he was openly questioned about such by the media…
…but, as mentioned, that’s not our concern. The question that Patriots fans need to ask themselves is if we are going to welcome the man or ostracise him from the get-go?
Speculation as to how he fits into the offense is as varied as the opinions as to whether he even makes the roster – though anyone who thinks Belichick gave away Jeff Demps and a 7th round draft pick just to kick the tires on Blount is delusional. Belichick gives nothing away. He feels that he got good value in the trade, which sent the wishy-washy world class sprinter Demps to the Buccaneers.
But to properly evaluate what Blount’s role might be on the team, prudence dictates that we take the entire depth chart into account.
Some take the stance that since the Patriots were one of the best rushing teams in the NFL last season, why fix something that isn’t broken – a valid point, but there are still others that believe that if you’re not trying to improve, then you are in decline – and Bill Belichick is not in that business.
At his best, Blount is a bruising power back with serious balance and athleticism with lateral suddenness and highlight reel moves for the milk drinkers and a serious stiff arm for the whiskey crowd, capable of long gainers once in the open field – reaching top speed very quickly and having the solid base that corners bounce off of.
At his worst, we get a violent and intimidating competitor who sometimes takes himself a little too seriously…and you’re going to have to look pretty hard for a true football fan who has a problem with that.
Either way, the Patriots get a back that had first round talent coming out of the University of Oregon, but went undrafted because he punched Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after Hout precipitated the incident by taunting Blount repeatedly during the game and immediately afterward. The Patriots get a guy that took it upon himself to work towards guidelines that coach Chip Kelly had set for his return to the team after suspending him for the season due to the incident, and eventually earned his way back onto the team.
The Patriots get a guy that Jeff Fisher took a chance on but had to cut to make room for a linebacker that they had traded for, and would have ended up on their practice squad had the Buccaneers not claimed him off waivers – and who became just the second undrafted free agent rookie in league history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and did it playing in 13 games, starting ten.
I shudder to think of what it would be like to be a linebacker for the opposing team late in the game and in need of a stop on 3rd and 3, look into the backfield and see a two back set featuring Blount and Ridley behind perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL – Brady under center, winking at the “Mike” as if to say, “Here we come, now try and stop us”…
…which is ridiculous, but it’s a nice thought, right? Because even if they do guess right as to who’s getting the ball and where he’s headed, the up-back is already in the hole with a can opener…the point is that, bluntly, Blount is in New England to give the Patriots the big bruising back they haven’t had since the Championship days.
But he’s not Corey Dillon. He’s not Antowain Smith either. He’s LeGarrette Blount. He’s the guy that Chip Kelly suspended for punching out the Boise State player, then reinstated him because he had accomplished every goal given him to return to the team. He’s the guy that got in a fight in Titan’s training camp, then went up to then coach Jeff Fisher to apologize, knowing that his reputation preceded him…
…”He apologized, and I said he didn’t have to apologize,” Fisher said. “It’s football. It’s training camp.” “His past is his past. Is that the first punch you’ve seen in camp this year? No. I’m not disappointed whatsoever. I have great confidence in the young man that he learned from his mistake, and he’s very competitive. That’s why we brought him in here is to watch him run the football like that,” Fisher said.
And that’s what Belichick sent Jeff Demps and a 7th round pick to Schiano for, to watch Blount run the football for the Patriots with that kind of attitude.
You don’t hear anything about a guy like Blount doing well because fans don’t give up their opinions quickly and because the media will never let them forget. Blount most assuredly made his own metaphoric bed, and had to sleep in it…
…then got up, and went to work. And if Patriots’ fans give the man a chance, he could be making his bed in Foxboro and sleep in it for real…for a long time.