November 09, 2009
Even if you're not an Oregon fan, or Pac-10 fan, or even necessarily a college football fan, you almost certainly remember LeGarrette Blount as the villain of the most widely replayed moment of the season, Blount's roundhouse right on Boise State's Byron Hout and subsequent attempt to take on heckling fans after the Ducks' opening-night flop in September. It was the worst night of Blount's career, on the field (the would-be All-American was held to negative yardage as the Ducks' prolific offense struggled to a single touchdown) and certainly off it, and briefly looked like it may cost him that career: Within days, Blount was made into a national pariah, summarily suspended for the season and plummeted down draft boards. He could remain at Oregon, to finish his senior year practice and earn his degree, but he wouldn't suit up again as a Duck.
But time heals all wounds -- two months later, Oregon has rebounded to trounce USC and put itself on track for the Rose Bowl even after Saturday's humbling loss at Stanford, Blount has rebounded to meet all of the conditions laid out for his return to the field and the powers-that-be at Oregon and in the Pac-10 have seen fit to make his second chance official:
EUGENE – University of Oregon senior running back LeGarrette Blount has been reinstated to the Ducks’ football program and will be available to play Saturday when they host Arizona State in a game scheduled to kickoff at 7:20 p.m. (PST), according to an announcement from the school’s head coach Chip Kelly Monday.
"I’m grateful to Coach Kelly that he cares enough to offer me this second chance," Blount said. "Now it is up to me to prove to people that their lasting impressions of me are not what they saw in Boise. ..."
It's more than a second chance, actually. Blount had been suspended for assorted reasons before flipping out on the blue turf, and certain local beat writers have said publicly they were hardly surprised when he turned out to be the guy who crossed the line. To some, the timing will also seem slightly more suspect than it would have been last week, when the Ducks were on a seven-game roll and hardly needed another complement to athletic quarterback Jeremiah Masoli or emerging running back LaMichael James in the running game. It's not like the offense was the problem in Saturday's loss at Stanford -- the Ducks rolled up a staggering 570 yards, 236 of them rushing, and 42 points in a losing effort -- but if you're not that concerned with the details, Blount's return does coincide with the team's first loss without him in the lineup.
In football terms, it will be interesting to see how the Ducks reincorporate their old star running back with their new star, James, and how much Blount can add both to one of the most dominating ground games in the country -- with or without him -- and his own stock as a likely future pro. In non-football terms, the reception outside of Eugene is certain to be mixed, to say the least. But the fact that Blount has spent the last two months doing and saying (or rather, not saying) all the right things to remain a part of the system, as opposed to following the cynics' expectations into oblivion, is some assurance that there won't be any major problems from him again as long as he still has so much to lose.