WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – LeGarrette Blount has enjoyed a strong, if drama-filled, training camp.
First he caused a minor stir by opening camp on the non-football injury list, reportedly due to failing to complete the conditioning run. That came after a solid spring of work during OTAs and mini-camp in which he was the best back on the field.
Then after the mandatory two-day waiting period without pads, Blount joined his teammates in full gear on Day 3 and looked none the worse for wear. He again darted around the practice fields, shifting and cutting effectively throughout those first several days of work.
On Aug. 8 things took another negative turn for Blount when he went down with what appeared to be a potentially serious right knee injury. He went down in a heap during a running drill and as the Patriots medical staff evaluated him several of his teammates, as well as Bill Belichick, came over to offer a pat on the back. He was eventually carted off and things didn't look great.
But news soon circulated that Blount had escaped serious injury and was dealing with a sprained MCL and no structural damage. Those positive reports were validated Aug. 11 when he was back on the field, in full uniform, working on his conditioning.
Soon he was back in the mix for real, and then things took another strange turn. On Monday he was again in full uniform – wearing his helmet, shells and shorts like the rest of his teammates – only instead of his normal No. 29 he donned 74, a number suited for an offensive lineman.
So what was with the change?
"I don't have the slightest clue," he said after the Patriots first joint practice with the Saints at the Greenbrier Resort. "It was in the locker and I just put it on and wore it."
Blount wouldn't elaborate any further, and he returned to 29 the following day and was in his traditional number again Wednesday against New Orleans.
It's possible the 6-0, 250-pounder, who is one of the biggest running backs in the league, was given a message from the coaching staff about watching his weight, but even if that were the case it wouldn't take away from his performance on the field. Whether he's been wearing 74 or 29 Blount remains head and shoulders the best back on the field, and he continues to glide around the field like a much smaller back.
When asked about his apparent improved quickness, Blount didn't point to anything specific. He stated that he's simply working on improving all the time.
"I've just been working during OTAs and mini-camp at trying to get downhill and trying to get better at making my cuts and getting a little bit more agility," he said. "I've been trying to get better and slowly it's coming along."
Like most of the Patriots on Wednesday, Blount also felt the work against the Saints was beneficial.
"It felt good. I was out there trying to get better, going against some other guys and getting some different looks. I'm just out there trying to get better and going against some other people other than my guys is going to help me get better."
No matter what his number is.