BLOUNT FORCE TRAUMA
May 29, 2014
LeGarrette Blount is a big, bad man, and the Steelers have very specific plans for the latest addition to their RB stable.
It was a simple up-and-back cone drill done too soon after the stretch for anyone to really care except Mike Tomlin.
The Steelers' coach likes to use these drills to teach fundamentals in his own humorous and bombastic way, especially to newcomers like LeGarrette Blount.
"Blount," Tomlin shouted during the drill, "I don't ever want to see you moving backward on a football field again."
Tomlin said something else to Blount that was inaudible to those on the sideline, but it may have been something like, "You are my new beast. Go forward."
Blount not only looks like a full load coming through the line here at spring practices, he has some breakaway speed. The 6-0 1/2, 250-pounder blew through one hole later in practice and wasn't caught.
No wonder the guy averaged 5.0 yards per carry in rushing for 772 yards for the New England Patriots last season.
And no wonder Tomlin got into the recruiting act during free agency to land him.
"Yeah, they had some phone calls," said Blount. "I came on my visit and we talked a lot. Finally we came to a decision and I agreed this is where I wanted to be and with what they wanted to do here and what they had in place."
What exactly did Tomlin say? How did he sell Blount on the Steelers?
"I don't think he really like sold me," Blount said. "He just laid it on the line, was honest with me, said, 'Listen this is what we want to do, this is where we want to be, and you being a part of that would build a good part in how we could get there.' I liked that. I liked the fact that they want to come out here and be a winning football team. That's what I want to be a part of."
Just to go backward for a minute, Blount finished strong with the Patriots. He started the final four regular-season games and the first playoff game and averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored 8 touchdowns in those starts. The guy the Patriots had acquired from Tampa Bay for a seventh-round pick was giving Tom Brady a true power back and the Patriots rolled to the conference championship game.
But at the end of the season, the Patriots let him go. Legend has it that Bill Belichick doesn't let good players leave, so how did the Steelers end up signing Blount to back up Le'Veon Bell?
"I don't know," Blount said. "I don't have the slightest idea. I mean, I loved it there. It was an amazing place. And I loved being in the playoffs. I'll always have love for Bill and everybody at that place. At the same time, I'm happy I came here and I'm ready to be a part of this and hopefully we can get back to where I was last year."
With Mike Munchak taking over a young line that's on the verge of blossoming, the running game is certainly being viewed as a major component for the Steelers' return to the playoffs.
"I think so," said center Maurkice Pouncey. "He knows how to coach it real well. He knows how to set up blocking schemes for us."
"Yeah, it has to be," said right guard David DeCastro. "We have some great backs in the backfield, tight ends, Will Johnson at fullback, and we're definitely very, very confident. It will be on us to prove that and give the coaches confidence to call those plays."
What do the two line stalwarts think of the new runner?
"Big and powerful, baby. I love it," Pouncey said of Blount.
"He's awesome." said DeCastro. "Yeah, as an offensive lineman you love to have a guy like that behind you, short-yardage or even anything. He's just so skilled for being that heavy."
And so fast. The speed was surprising, almost startling, on the spring practice field.
"I've always been able to run," said the man who was timed at 4.71 in his combine 40 in 2010. "I think that's a big part of my game that people don't really respect. They don't expect me to be a big fast guy. That's cool with me. I don't mind that. But at some point when I get out there with it, you're going to have to respect it."
Tomlin respects it. That's why he went after it. And that's why he doesn't want anything more fancy than straight ahead power and speed from Blount when he has the ball.
So what else did Tomlin tell Blount out there by the cones after the stretch?
"He just said if anyone ever asks me to do anything backwards, don't do it," Blount said.
Sounds like a plan.