BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- When asked about his team possibly drafting a first round pick at his position, most NFL players would claim to welcome the help and the chance to compete. They might not be honest when they say it, and some may grind their teeth as they say it, but most say it nonetheless.
Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount, however, does not subscribe to the Polite Team-centric Lie school of pre-draft spin doctoring. At the Nike NFL Uniform Launch on Tuesday, Blount was asked about the possibility of the Buccaneers selecting Alabama running back with the fifth overall pick in April's draft. Blount's blunt response: "I would not be happy with that pick. I feel like we have a pretty stable backfield. I feel that we have more needs at other places than we do at running back. I would definitely not be happy with that pick. But then again, it's not in my hands. I can't make that decision."
When asked if he would prefer that the Buccaneers select an offensive lineman like Iowa's Riley Reiff or Stanford's David DeCastro, Blount perked up a bit. "I'd like one of those guys to come along with (Carl) Nicks, who we just picked up from New Orleans. Building those guys up would work wonders for our offense in general."
"There's nothing wrong with giving me help," he continued, "but at the same time, I feel like I've done a few things so we shouldn't have to draft another running back in the first [round.]"
The "few things" Blount has done include leading the Buccaneers in rushing over the last two seasons and gaining 1,007 yards in 2010. Last year, his production slipped, and he often disappeared from gameplans. Blount had ten or fewer carries in five Buccaneers games. His liabilities as a receiver (he has 20 receptions in two seasons) and pass protector limited his value for a team that spent most games playing from behind last year. The previous coaching staff appeared to lose confidence in him at times.
Blount has been in touch with members of the new Buccaneers coaching staff, including running back coach Earnest Byner, who he describes as "a preaching guy" who provides life lessons in addition to technical advice. Blount has not met with Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan yet, but he bristled at the suggestion that the former Giants assistant might give him a Brandon Jacobs role as the power back in a committee system. "I don't want that role," Blount said. "I want my role that I've been at. I want my starting role."
However, Schiano has made one thing very clear -- if Blount (or any other player) can't hold on to the football, he won't get it. Pretty much ever. And with nine fumbles in his two NFL seasons (six of them lost), it's certainly a point of emphasis. Richardson, meanwhile, fumbled just once in 636 touches for the Crimson Tide.
"No one who touches the football will get touches if they don't protect the football," Schiano recently said, when asked about ball security. "That is one of our core covenants: the ball. It's so important, they named the game after it. So we make a big deal about that thing."
As Blount said, the decision is not in his hands, and despite his tackle-breaking ability, Blount's game has enough holes in it to make Schiano and the Buccaneers' staff wary of him as a featured back. The team has taken care of some of the "other needs" Blount described by signing Nicks and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Richardson would be the perfect fit for a head coach who once gave tiny Ray Rice 380 carries in 13 college games, and the Tampa offense isn't big enough for two bruising runners who expect a featured role.
No one would be happy about that kind of situation. It was refreshing to hear someone actually admit it.