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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 30, 2010

NFL: Blount takes 1st step toward NFL job with Titans


By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. LeGarrette Blount didn't hear his name called during the NFL draft. The Tennessee Titans are giving him his shot at the pros, believing the Oregon running back deserves a chance after punching an opponent last year.

And he has a good chance at earning a roster spot.

Chris Johnson is secure, but the Titans traded away LenDale White a week ago. The only other back is Javon Ringer. Enter the man best known for punching Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after their game Sept. 3.

The heat of the moment decision cost Blount eight college games in 2009. But he said Friday during the Titans' rookie orientation he knew he had to grow up and take responsibility for an incident.

"I knew ... what I did was going to come with severe punishment everything that I did to erase that image and help myself as far as getting on an NFL team it helped me out a lot as far as getting where I am right now," Blount said.

Blount took the field with the Titans' nine draft picks and 14 other undrafted rookies as part of the team's orientation.

This is a rookie group filled with names like defensive end Derrick Morgan, the 16th pick overall, Rhodes scholar Myron Rolle and Southern California running back Stafon Johnson, who also went undrafted after his larynx was crushed last year in a weightlifting accident.

But Blount has had fans arguing about his future after that punch to Hout's jaw, which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on the Internet.

Coach Jeff Fisher said they did their research, and he spent hours on the phone last weekend talking to people about Blount. Fisher wouldn't disclose who he got feedback from.

"He's paid his dues," Fisher said. "We felt like he's deserving of an opportunity and he understands the circumstances, the situation and he understands the fact he has an opportunity. He's a good football player, and he's been very pleasant to be around."

Blount originally was projected as a fifth or sixth-round draft pick and rated as the 13th-best running back by NFLDraftScout.com. No team took a chance on drafting him, but he said up to five teams called trying to land his services. He and his family studied rosters and the number of running backs before agreeing Tennessee offered his best opportunity.

Tennessee traded away White during the fourth round of the NFL draft to Seattle. That opened up an immediate slot for a big back like the 6-foot, 241-pound Blount.

"I know that they let go of LenDale White, and I'm another big running back to come in and fill that position with me and Chris Johnson in the backfield it's kind of a change of pace running game. It's like DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Both of us can produce yardage and make big plays," Blount said.

He ran for 1,002 yards and led the Pac-10 with 17 touchdowns during his first season at Oregon in 2008 after transferring from junior college where he ran for 2,292 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was timed at 4.59 seconds at his pro day, but he was suspended for eight games after that punch after the season opener.

Blount revived what was left of his career at Oregon by following coach Chip Kelly's plan for him. He missed eight games but was reinstated in mid-November after meeting academic and behavior requirements. He also talked with a variety of people Kelly put him in touch with like former NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden about what he needed to do.

Tennessee has had mixed experiences offering second chances.

The Titans had to trade away cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones in April 2008 after he served a one-year suspension from the NFL, but defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had two Pro Bowl seasons after he stomped on Dallas center Andre Gurode's face during a game in October 2006 earning a five-game suspension from the NFL.

Fisher said everyone understands the length of the leash in the NFL.

"I wouldn't say it's any shorter," Fisher said of Blount. "I don't anticipate any problems from him I really don't. We'll treat him no different than anybody else. ... He stayed in shape. He's got his weight down. He's very willing. He really wants to make this football team, and he believes he can help us."

The running back knows he's being watched wherever he goes to see what he might do next. Stewart, a friend and another former Oregon running back he talks frequently with, has been encouraging him since that incident. Stewart's biggest advice?

"He continues to tell me, `Keep your head up and don't forget this all can be taken away in a minute if you go out and do something stupid in the street or something you know is not called for or you don't need to be doing,"' Blount said.