By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The shot he dished out almost cost LeGarrette Blount the shot he was hoping for.
But as this season has gone on, the former Oregon running back is establishing himself with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who face the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. And in doing so, Blount is slowly making a name for himself as someone other than “the guy who punched a Boise State player.” Blount, who was suspended for almost all of last season for punching Boise State’s Byron Hout following a loss to the Broncos, went undrafted in April because of his baggage, not a lack of physical ability, causing him to wonder just how much he had cost himself on that night in Boise.
“I definitely didn’t think it was going to happen this year,” Blount said on a conference call. “… I knew everybody knew what happened, I knew everybody knew what was going on, and I was just afraid that a team wasn’t going to take a shot on me — especially since I didn’t get drafted. That scared me a lot.”
But after a stint with Tennessee, Blount found a home in Tampa Bay, and is winning people over both on and off the field as the Buccaneers have become one of the league’s biggest surprises, going from one of the NFL’s worst teams in 2009 to playoff contender a year later. Blount started the season in a limited role, but has eventually become Tampa’s leading rusher, compiling 777 yards and six touchdowns. He has gained 80 or more yards in five of his past eight games, including 110 yards on 15 carries last week.
“I don’t think anybody passed on him because of what people thought that his talent was,” Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said on a conference call. “I think we all knew about his talent. … He put himself in a bad predicament and had the one mistake there in college and he just wanted to move past that. What he’s been doing here, he’s been on the right track, he’s been meeting with his coaches, he’s getting better and better every week. He wants to go out every week and prove to himself that he deserves to be here and his opportunity he’s not going to take light and let slip through his fingertips.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, passed on Blount in the draft just like every other NFL teams, and now must deal with the bruising 247-pound back Sunday in a game with huge playoff implications for both teams.
“I’m sure there are — us included — a lot of teams that didn’t get a chance to get him that are looking at it now and saying we must be crazy,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Because he’s really come on fast and made a big impression on their football team and their style of play.”
And Blount is far from the only young player making a big impact on the Bucs. The offense is led by second-year quarterback Josh Freeman, whose top receiver is rookie Mike Williams. On defense, Tampa Bay featured the No. 3 pick in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was showing promise before a torn biceps ended his season. With so much youth, most figured Tampa Bay had a bright future to look forward to, but nobody expected the Buccaneers to have a shot at winning 10 games this season. Nobody but the Buccaneers themselves, anyway.
“We’ve got the youngest roster in the league, and I don’t think it’s about being surprised,” Morris said. “I think it’s more about it’s a mentality towards reality. When we started this thing, we talked about ‘Race to 10’ and people thought we were crazy, but it was my mentality, it was my vision, it was what I set out for our team to do. These guys have done nothing but back me and go to work every day with the workmanship, the attitude and a pro player type attitude at work and we’ve been able to have a little success. And hopefully, we can continue that.”
Blount, meanwhile, hopes to keep proving right the franchise that took a chance on an undrafted player who came into the season with considerable baggage.
“When I started getting the phone calls after the draft that gave me a lot of hope and that made me excited and happy that I’m even getting a chance,” he said. “And I knew that once I got that chance I was going to be able to showcase what I have.”
CB Marcus Trufant (back) returned to practice Friday and is listed as probable.
“He’s ready to go,” Pete Carroll said.
LB Will Herring, meanwhile, is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. LB Lofa Tatupu (knee), C Chris Spencer (shoulder) and DE Chris Clemons (ankle) are all listed as probable.
“This is as healthy as we’ve been in a long time,” Carroll said. “… For the most part this is as strong as we’ve been.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog