Super Bowl manner becomes LeGarrette Blount's replacement for old bad habits

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Although the team colors were different, the smile was just as bright.

Super Bowl manner becomes LeGarrette Blount's replacement for old bad habits

Super Bowl manner becomes LeGarrette Blount's replacement for old bad habits

It was almost exactly one year ago that LeGarrette Blount attended Super Bowl 51 media night as a member of the Patriots. The good fortune of being back on this stage again — let alone with the chance to join only a handful of other players ever to win consecutive Lombardi Trophies playing for different franchises — isn't lost on the Eagles running back.

"I’m loving it, man," a beaming Blount said backstage before meeting Monday night with the gaggle of Super Bowl 52 reporters gathered at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. "I’m really excited about just the simple fact I've been able to play in back-to-back Super Bowls.

"I don't know how many guys have done that, much less ever played in one period."

Deion Sanders, Ken Norton Jr., Derrick Martin and Brandon Browner are the only four players in the Super Bowl era to have captured another ring the year after leaving a defending champion. Blount and Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who also made the free-agent leap from New England to Philly, would become the first teammates to accomplish the feat if the Eagles triumph Sunday.

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Blount said playing against the team that opted against re-signing him isn't serving as any additional motivation, even though a lengthy Bleacher Report story indicates otherwise. Blount insisted to co-host Gil Brandt and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he's more interested in trying to make history by becoming part of Philadelphia's first Super Bowl champion.

"Just being in this game is inspiring to want to play your best football," Blount said. "This isn't like the NBA where you get a seven-game series. Here, you get one chance. I just want to take full advantage of it."

Blount made far more of an impact with the Patriots than he has with the Eagles. His best season came in 2017, when he ran for 1,161 yards along with 18 touchdowns, which was the league's highest total in eight years.

Yet rather than generating strong buzz for his services, Blount remained unsigned until deep into the 2018 offseason. The marketplace was limited because not every team was searching for a 6-0, 250-pound bulldozer with limited receiving skills.

There could have been other mitigating factors, as well.

Maybe it was his age — he turned 31 in December — that served as the biggest deterrent to potential suitors. Maybe some teams didn't believe Blount was a team player considering multiple incidents of unprofessionalism.

One of them came in 2014, when Blount was with Pittsburgh. He walked off the field before a game ended because he was upset with a lack of playing time. The Steelers cut him in response, leading Blount back to the Patriots for a second stint. There he contributed to New England’s journey toward winning Super Bowl 49.

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The fact that the Patriots didn't make much of an effort to re-sign Blount following Super Bowl 51, instead opting to add running backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead in free agency, didn't help allay any outstanding concerns.

Blount dangled without a team in the weeks following the 2018 draft until three key members of the Eagles organization (head coach Doug Pederson, running backs coach Duce Staley and personnel czar Howie Roseman) came calling.

Philadelphia was looking to part ways with the oft-injured Ryan Mathews and needed a new hammer in its backfield. Blount signed a modest one-year, $1.25 million deal with another $1.55 million available through incentives. Mathews was waived during the preseason and never re-signed elsewhere.

"I talked to a few teams and had a couple of offers, but ultimately I felt like Philadelphia had something special," Blount said. "I saw (quarterback) Carson Wentz play the year before and the potential he had to be an amazing player. I also saw a lot of things falling into place for us with all the playmakers they were adding.

"I just felt like this was the right place for me to be and the place I needed to be."

It didn't feel that way early on. Blount throughout the preseason struggled adjusting to Pederson's West Coast-style offense. The nadir came during a loss to Kansas City in Week 2, when he had one reception and no carries.

Blount, though, quickly rebounded. He notched between 12 to 16 rushes in each of the Eagles' next six games, highlighted by a 136-yard showing against the Chargers.

Blount's role diminished again after Philadelphia made a midseason trade with Miami for running back Jay Ajayi. Blount averaged nine carries in the final eight regular-season contests and finished the year with 766 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Philadelphia's running back-by-committee approach has continued to limit Blount's playing time in the playoffs. But being able to contribute to the Eagles' postseason run with rushing touchdowns in wins against the Falcons and Vikings has provided its own gratification.

"You definitely want to be in a Super Bowl more than anything," Blount said. "No matter the sacrifice you have to make during the season, this is the ultimate goal at the end.

"It's not about personal numbers or carries or being the featured back or whatever. It's about being in the last game. You've got one more left and you've got to take full advantage of it."

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Blount has done just that in the later stages of an NFL career that began auspiciously because of an on-field incident at the University of Oregon in which he punched an unsuspecting Boise State player in the face. Blount was waived by Tennessee at the end of his first preseason in 2010 before landing with Tampa Bay, where he proceeded to become only the second undrafted player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards as a rookie.

Such initial NFL success didn't break Blount of bad habits. His penchant for missing team meetings because he overslept prompted Tampa Bay to hire a car service that ensured he made it to team headquarters in time. The Buccaneers eventually grew tired of Blount’s act and traded him to New England in the 2013 offseason.

Blount headed to Pittsburgh the following year but began wearing out his welcome early when he was arrested on a marijuana possession charge with Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell during the preseason.

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Realizing change was necessary, Blount finally started straightening out his act during his second tour in New England by focusing more on his family and keeping his weight under much better control than in his younger days.

"I feel amazing," Blount said. "There’s not a lot you can complain about when you're eight years in the league and you've been to three Super Bowls."

Blount’s pearly whites indicated just that.

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