An admittedly "flustered, at a loss for words" LeGarrette Blount welcomed the large crowd of cameras, microphones, and eager reporters crowding his Gillette Stadium locker on Friday.
"It feels really good. I was excited to hear about it," he said of his return to Foxborough, less than a calendar year after leaving town for Pittsburgh. His Steeler career was short-lived, however. Having become unhappy with his role, Blount left Pittsburgh's Monday night game early – left the field entirely – and was subsequently released the following morning. Thursday, he re-signed with the Patriots, where he spent a productive one season last year.
Head coach Bill Belichick told media earlier Friday that Blount's role with the Patriots this season "will be up to him."
"Just like everybody else," Belichick added. "When he gets an opportunity, how much he can take advantage of it, how much he can be productive, what he can do with those opportunities will determine how many more there are and how [big] it becomes."
"It means a lot," Blount said of his conversation with Belichick upon returning. "Bill's a straightforward shooter. He's a 100-percent honest person, and I truly believe that if I do what I have to do, then I'll make myself a role on this team.
"I'm in good shape. Whenever they call me to carry the ball, I'm going to do whatever I can to make them comfortable with their decision to bring me back."
When asked to give his version of events in Pittsburgh, the veteran ball carrier politely declined.
"I don't really want to talk about it, but just the fact that it opened up another opportunity for me to get back here. I wasn't expecting it."
He did, however, go further via his Twitter account, expressing remorse for the way he exited the Steel City.
"I would like to thank the Pittsburgh Steelers organization… for the opportunity and experience they provided me," he wrote. "I would also like to apologize to them and my teammates and fans for how things ended. I made a poor decision that I will definitely grow from. I wish the Steelers, my former teammates and Steeler Nation nothing but the best."
Belichick revealed that he wanted to re-sign Blount when the running back become a free agent this past spring, but "that didn't work out, which is the NFL, it's the business part of the NFL. He was released, he was available and we were able to work it out for him to come back here. Glad to have him back."
Blount said that, at the time, he was comfortable with his decision to sign with Pittsburgh, but is clearly eager to resurrect his Patriots career in his second go-round.
"I missed it a lot," he admitted. "I missed the guys, the coaches. I was welcomed with open arms by everybody."
Blount surprised many an observer Thursday when he appeared on the practice field wearing a very o-line-like number 60. Friday, he was still sporting the unorthodox jersey digit for a running back.
He also was without a custom nameplate above his locker as of late Friday. Blount said later he was still trying to negotiate the exchange of his erstwhile number in New England, 29, which is currently owned by safety Don Jones.
Jones joked with reporters that, as compensation, he might ask Blount to provide a year's supply of feed for the two dozen cows he owns on his farm in Alabama.
And if he can't get his desired 29 by game time on Sunday at 1 o'clock?
"[I'll take] 42, 30-something… I'll grab something," Blount smiled.
Gronk fined for bouncing
You may recall seeing Gronkowski driving former Patriots safety Sergio Brown into an NBC broadcast camera Sunday night during a Jonas Gray touchdown run.
"[Brown] was just yappin' at me the whole time," Gronkowski said after the game. "So I took him and threw him out of the club."
Well, the NFL took issue with Gronkowski's behavior, fining him $8,268 for the overaggressive act.
Curiously, running back Jonas Gray was not at Friday's practice. He'd spoken to reporters immediately after Thursday's session and there was no indication that he was suffering from any sort of injury. Media reports late Friday indicated that Gray had arrived late to Gillette Stadium and was being disciplined. He was not in the locker room afterward when media gathered for player interviews.
The Patriots also practiced without IR/designated-to-return DL Sealver Siliga, DE Chandler Jones (hip), rookie DL Dominique Easley (right knee), and rookie o-lineman Cameron Fleming (finger/left ankle).