FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) A right cross to an opponent’s chin. An arrest on a marijuana possession charge. A decision to walk out on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And now, for LeGarrette Blount, a spot in the Super Bowl in a revived career.
”It’s had its ups and downs,” the hard-hitting running back for the New England Patriots said. ”I’ve had good times and bad and I’ve embraced them all. So I’m enjoying every second of this.”
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Blount returned to practice Thursday for the NFL championship game against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1.
He helped the Patriots get there by rushing for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries in a 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night.
A feeling of redemption, perhaps?
”No,” Blount said, ”it was the feeling of winning the AFC championship.”
It’s a high point of a career that plummeted early in his senior year at Oregon when he punched opponent Byron Hout on the field after a loss to Boise State. Hout appeared to say something to Blount before being hit and Blount, who was led to the locker room by security personnel, apologized immediately after the game.
He spent the next three seasons with Tampa Bay after going undrafted, then was traded to the Patriots in April 2013. He rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns in a divisional playoff win over Indianapolis. But two months after a loss to Denver in the AFC championship game, he signed a two-year contract with Pittsburgh.
In his first training camp with the Steelers, Blount was arrested on a marijuana possession charge after police said they found marijuana in a car Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell was driving. Bell also was arrested.
Bell started all 11 games in which he and Blount were teammates.
Blount’s frustration mounted when he ran five times for no yards in the 10th game then didn’t carry the ball at all in the next game, a 27-24 loss at Tennessee. As quarterback Ben Roethslisberger was preparing to kneel down on the final play, Blount headed to the locker room.
When teammates got there he was about to leave for the team bus.
”I was still dressed in my football stuff and I went out to go get him,” Steelers safety Mike Mitchell said. ”I know he’s not a selfish guy. He’s a team guy, but it’s more so knowing his feelings were hurt.”
Blount was cut the next day.
”If there was someone that was a cancer ended up leaving on his own, that’s a blessing for us,” Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said the day Blount was released. ”He’s been a good teammate. … He made his decision last night and it’s probably going to stick with him for a while.”
Two days later, he signed with the Patriots. And three days after that, he rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in a 34-9 win over the Detroit Lions.
In the regular season, he rushed for 266 yards in 11 games with the Steelers and 281 in five games with the Patriots.
”I’m in a better scenario than I could possibly be in right now,” Blount said.
And he’s surrounded by appreciative teammates.
”We love LG whether he has 250 yards or 5 yards,” running back Shane Vereen said. ”He’s a great player, a great teammate. He’s accepted around here and everybody loves him.”
In the AFC championship game, the 250-pound Blount showed power and agility in running over and around defenders.
”You don’t see a lot of guys like him,” coach Bill Belichick said. ”He can make you miss tackles a lot of different ways.”
He could have been doing that in Pittsburgh.
”It was a disappointment the way that turned out,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said. ”Obviously, you don’t want to cut a player, even a backup player, at that point in the season but … the decision was that it wasn’t a good fit.”
Blount still faces repercussions from his time in Pittsburgh. He’s due in court Feb. 4 when the marijuana possession charge could be dismissed.
By then he could be a Super Bowl champion.
”I like it here a lot,” Blount said. ”I just wanted to be a part of an organization like that and I got my chance to and I’m taking full advantage of it.”
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report. —
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