When Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount lost control of his emotions after the Ducks' loss to Boise State and punched an opposing player, threw a punch at a teammate, and went after Boise State fans on his way back to the locker room, many experts thought his NFL dreams were over.
That may not be the case.
Blount is going to be reinstated by the University of Oregon today (Friday, Oct. 2, 2009) according to ESPN's Joe Schad. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly has called a news conference after practice today to announce Blount's reinstatement.
"After speaking with a number of nationally renowned professionals in the field, which included Dr. Harry Edwards and Tony Dungy, I came to the conclusion that leaving the door open for LeGarrette's potential return as an active player was the best solution," Kelly said Friday in a statement.
Blount has talked to Dungy, Jon Gruden, former NBA player Kermit Washington, and Edwards, a professor emeritus at Cal-Berkeley. It is reported that they all have come away impressed with him. Blount also became a father for the first time recently, and people close to the program say he is a different man.
On Thursday the student newspaper did a story on Blount and the incident. Blount sent this letter of apology to them:
"On a personal note, I probably will never be able to erase the memories of the post-game events of that day. Given this, I do not expect to be given a second chance to be a positive and responsible member of the football program and of this community.
"Going forward, what I hope for is the opportunity to show that I am able to earn a second chance as a University student. And if I am so fortunate, I believe that I also will demonstrate that I am a better man and a better human being for having lived through this unfortunate experience."
NFL teams will have Blount "red flagged" because of "off the field issues," and rightfully so. But just like other players who have had issues on and off the field, Blount's god-given ability may make teams think twice about leaving him off their boards.
Blount, a 6'2", 240-pound transfer from East Mississippi Community College, rushed for 1,002 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns last season. It has been reported that Blount could run in the low 4.3 range at the combine. Blount was mentioned as a possible Heisman candidate and on the Doak Walker watch list (for the nation's best running back).
Blount's abilities had been rated by ESPN and Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay as the second best running back coming into the season and a possible second round pick. McShay has said that because of the situation at Boise St. he would slip to the seventh round or go undrafted, costing him millions of dollars.
Some scouts believe that he has all the physical ability to be a very good every down back and that his passion and will to win led him to lose his temper.
What Blount did was a deplorable, inexcusable act that warranted a suspension, but the whole year? I think six to seven games is about right. That is (about) two-thirds of the NCAA season. But at least he was suspended. Byron Hout, the player Blount punched, was not suspended by Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.
Blount and Kelly called Boise State's Petersen and Hout soon after the suspension to apologize. It is also believed that Oregon athletic director and former head coach Mike Bellotti and school president Richard Lariviere are on board with the possibility for reinstatement, though it is not known to what extent the Pac-10 has been involved.
But will teams take a shot with Blount? He has had no other off the field issues and has all the tools they look for in a running back: size, speed, vision, toughness, and good hands. Will that be enough for teams to overlook what happened against Boise State?
Blount has been participating in Oregon practice as a member of the scout team and has been attending classes under scholarship, so he is still in great shape. The belief is Kelly will have Blount's first game come against USC on Oct. 31. Oregon also plays three teams that didn't make it to a bowl last season, Washington State, UCLA, and Washington, before the USC meeting.
Roger Goodell's no-nonsense policy when it comes to off the field actions and player accountability will weigh heavily on teams considering Blount, and some will take him off their draft boards. Teams in larger markets may decide to pass on him, but Blount may thrive in a small market with a team like Green Bay, Seattle, or Kansas City.
A team will take a chance on Blount. He is too talented not to. The question is who and what round? Time will tell.
The NFL is all about second chances—Michael Vick, Koren Robinson, Tank Johnson, Chris Henry, and Pac-Man Jones to name a few. Some of those guys have turned their lives around, while Jones seems to have not learned from his past transgressions.
When it is all said and done, teams in the NFL will take a shot on him. They all want the most "bang for their buck," and Blount could be that guy. He will slip from the second round grade, and a team will snatch him up, and then it will be up to him to continue to show growth on and off the field.
If he can stay on the straight and narrow, a team will come away with a steal of a pick.