Ducks Wrestle With Decision To Bring Back Blount

Willie KelleyContributor INovember 6, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:   Runningback LeGarrette Blount #9 of the University of Oregon Ducks hurdles a player en route to a touchdown during his team's 42-31 win over the Oklahoma State University Cowboys in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Oregon football is fast. The players practice fast, they run games fast, heck, even their coach talks fast. But their decision to bring back suspended senior running back LeGarrette Blount is not one to be made quickly.

Everything about that September evening post-game scene unfolded in a horrifying heartbeat. The game itself, for Ducks fans, droned on, as Oregon never seriously threatened to break through on the Boise blue turf. What happened next though was swifter than a LaMichael James spin move.

Over the course of a few hours, the team’s offensive ineptitude hinted at a season full of mistakes. But as the star tailback punched and raved his way around the field in college football’s worst incident in years, the nation was subjected to an individual’s personal litany of mistakes.

Blount’s a guy who’s been on the team for less than two years. He’s been suspended three times now, once just a few weeks before the melee in Boise. And the word around Eugene has been he doesn’t take academics seriously.

At least that was the word before Chip Kelly decided banishment was too harsh and went with a suspension instead. Blount had, faster than a Jeremiah Masoli scramble, turned the Ducks from the team with goofy uniforms into the program with a major image problem.

Despite that and in the face of the majority of fans, the first year coach stuck by the former junior college star, declaring publicly, “I love LeGarrette Blount.”

Fast-forward two months. Oregon has bounced back higher than those hurdles Blount put on unsuspecting defenders a season ago. The team that lost its marquee player on opening night has reeled off seven straight. It’s a defense, an offense, and a special teams unit coming together as group.

Blount has been part of that. Give him credit. Each week he fills the thankless role as a member of the scout team. He’s played Jahvid Best, Allen Bradford and this week as bruising Stanford back Toby Gerhart, giving that vaunted defense probably the best practice look in the nation.

He could have folded under the scrutiny of the media, taken his ball and gone home. Blount didn’t. With a program known for neck-breaking speed (ask USC’s defense) Blount has climbed the slow, arduous road back fulfilling the coach’s academic and personal requirements.

At some point, Kelly will recommend the running back for reinstatement and it will travel all the way up to Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott’s desk. Approved or not, Oregon’s path with Blount is laudable.

We hear all the time that teams are families, bands of brothers who strengthen together in the face of adversity. Keeping Blount around, trying to get him a college degree stands up for that creed.

On the field, Kelly is all about fast. In practice, he often starts signaling in the next play before the previous play even ends. The Blount situation is different; it’s not automatic and whether the journey ends with the mercurial senior carrying the ball in games or not, it’ll be a decision made the exact opposite way the Ducks are used to. Slowly.