LeGarrette Blount was a 1,000-yard rusher his rookie year for Tampa Bay in 2010, averaging five yards per carry. He followed that up with a less impressive, though still productive, 781 yards the next year (a 4.2 average).
Then the Buccaneers drafted Doug Martin last season, and Blount saw his opportunities on the field plummet. He rushed just 41 times for 151 yards. This offseason, Tampa traded the 26-year-old Blount to New England in a swap of running backs (the Patriots sent Jeff Demps, as well as a seventh-round draft choice, to Tampa).
In his first extensive discussion with reporters as a member of the Patriots, Blount was asked first if he was surprised by the trade.
He smirked as he paused to find the right words.
"Uh, I mean… I really don't pay too much attention to it," he claimed. "If it happened, it happened. If it didn't, it didn't. I'm just here to play football. I love the game and this is what I want to do, whether it's here or anywhere else."
So, does that mean he asked to be dealt out of Tampa?
"Uh… next question," he replied with a big smile and a laugh.
Blount's playful prevarications seemed to suggest that he's grateful for the fresh start in New England, even if he's not quite yet at the point where he feels secure in his new job.
"It's coming along. Everything is new, especially for me," he said of his learning of the Patriots offense. "I'm going to continue trying to learn as much as I can while we're here. You have to do a lot of studying. As long as you stay in your playbook and just keep up with everybody else as OTAs go along, I'll be good."
Organized team activity practices (OTAs) are designed to implement the basics of the system, as well as any new elements, even to veterans. The competitive evaluation aspect of the team-building process won't take place in earnest until training camp begins in late July. Blount admitted he's looking forward to the opportunity in New England this summer, after the way his time in Tampa ended.
"I'm just a big, physical running back. Being the size I am, it's good for me and the style I use to run the football. I'm a downhill, physical running back. Kind of old-school… Yeah, I'm always going to feel I have something to prove, as a football player and a competitor."
That's why these spring practices are so important, especially for a newcomer like Blount. He needs to catch up to the rest of the players on the team – and particularly at his position – who've been with the club for longer than a couple of months. If he can do that, he could give incumbent starter Stevan Ridley some serious competition, or at least provide some quality depth at the running back position.
"You can tell from watching [the Patriots] on TV, you know the expectations they have. You can tell the way they do things around the building. I'm excited to be a part of something like this. Hopefully, I fit in… We'll see how that goes.
"A lot of the guys are really close," Blount observed, remarking about his fellow Patriots backs. "They brought me in; we do a lot of things together. It's nice to know that even though you're the new guy, they take you in just like anyone else."
Blount clearly was no longer a good fit for Tampa Bay, even though he'd given them a couple of good seasons. But he says he's trying to learn from that humbling experience.
"It's a business. There are some things you can't control. Things like that, you come upon a good back like Doug, I mean, he's an amazing running back. You can't put into words how you feel, so, I just played my role."
What his role with the Patriots will be in 2013 remains to be seen.
OTA practices will conclude this week with workouts on Thursday and Friday. Media will not be allowed at those sessions, but the Patriots will be back on the field again next week for mini-camp June 11-13, and those practices will be open to the media.