punch-throwing incident that cost LaGarrette Blount most of his senior season due to a suspension, the Buccaneers had the Oregon running back rated highly on their draft boards this past April because of his physical ability and natural talents. But with Cadillac Williams coming off a full, 16-game schedule, Derrick Ward looking to rebound from a sub-par season in 2009, and an interesting, speedy rusher in Kareem Huggins fresh off the practice squad, general manager Mark Dominik didn’t feel the need to pull the trigger and draft a running back this year.
Yet after Dominik released Ward last week prior to the preseason finale at Houston, the Bucs were once again in the market for a big back and Blount popped up on the team's radar after he was released by Tennessee.
“The biggest reason why we didn’t draft LaGarrette was because we had a big back on the roster in Derrick Ward,” Dominik said. “We no longer have that and that’s a big part of why he’s here. We went out big-back hunting.”
Blount, who went undrafted largely due to character concerns, was signed as an undrafted free agent by Tennessee and claimed off waivers by the Buccaneers when the Titans released the 6-foot-1, 247-pound rusher on Sunday after he rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries (3.8 avg.). Confident in the homework he and director of college scouting Dennis Hickey did prior to the draft, acquiring Blount was too advantageous for the Bucs in the risk-reward category.
“We interviewed LeGarrette at the Senior Bowl and we interviewed him at the combine. He was part of our 30-person visit [prior to the draft at One Buc Place], so we were really getting to know him because you never know when you need to make a decision like we did today,” Dominik said. “We have a lot of confidence in him. We felt like we had some bigger backs with Earnest [Graham], Cadillac [Williams] and Derrick Ward and we were comfortable. But once he parted ways with Derrick Ward, we were on a mission to find big backs, and that’s what we did.”
Blount, a native of Perry, Fla. who rushed for 1,084 yards and 19 touchdowns on 159 carries (6.8 avg.), had another punch-throwing incident while with the Titans during training camp, but that didn’t overly concern Dominik.
“I would say this, I think if [Titans coach] Jeff Fisher were concerned about it he would have addressed it at that moment [by releasing him],” Dominik said. “He’s a well-respected coach on the NFL Competition Committee. We felt – after hearing what occurred – that wasn’t a real bad incident that would affect our ability to want to claim him.”
“He apologized, and I said he didn’t have to apologize,” Fisher told Tennessee-based reporters after the incident occurred in practice on August 19. “It’s football. It’s training camp.
“His past is his past. Is that the first punch you’ve seen in camp this year? No. I’m not disappointed whatsoever. I have great confidence in the young man that he learned from his mistake, and he’s very competitive. That’s why we brought him in here is to watch him run the football like that.”
Blount addressed the Tennessee media after hitting helmeted defensive end Eric Bakhtiari with his first.
“That was my past,” Blount said. “It just came up again. I got into one of those situations where the defense pushed me too far. With training camp and everything going the way it is and being as intense as it is and me being a rookie, it was just something I shouldn’t have done. But I did it.”
Recently The Oregonian reported that Blount got into a fight during practice and threw a punch at teammates Jairus Byrd and Jerome Boyd, but hit former Ducks head coach Mike Belloti “square in the face.” Belloti has since denied that event took place and Dominik isn’t put any stock into the report.
“I’ve heard that rumor, but I’ve never had it confirmed,” Dominik said.
Blount is a talented running back that Pewter Report was high on prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, and this acquisition could pay off some big dividends for Tampa Bay if he learns the offense and keeps his temper in check the way Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib has done over the past year. In fact, it was likely the team being able to handle
The acquisition of Blount came a day after the Bucs claimed Kregg Lumpkin off waivers from Green Bay.
In order to claim Blount, the Bucs had to waive veteran receiver Reggie Brown, who was acquired in a sixth-round trade with Philadelphia in March. Brown struggled in the preseason with drops and although he was part of Tampa Bay’s seven-man receiving corps when the team pared its roster down to 53, he was not among the top five receivers (Mike Williams, Sammie Stroughter, Maurice Stovall, Arrelious Benn and Micheal Spurlock) on the depth chart and did not have much special teams ability.