FOXBORO, Mass. — The draft day trade that brought LeGarrette Blount to New England this spring seemed to be nothing more than a swap of headaches at first glance, but it might be developing into much more for the Patriots.
Blount was traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for world class track star, and NFL no-show return specialist, Jeff Demps as well as a throw-in seventh-round pick. The expectation all along was that the bulky running back (6-feet, 250 pounds) would compete with second-year back Brandon Bolden for the job backing up feature back Stevan Ridley in New England. That competition proved to be interesting throughout the preseason, but it appears to have finally come to a head.
Neither Blount nor Bolden played in the Patriots’ final preseason game on Thursday night, but the absences seemingly meant two different things for the competing backs. While Blount participated in pregame warm-ups with the running backs group and stood on the sidelines, with an assumed night off, Bolden was nowhere to be found out on the field. After an offseason riddled with injuries, Bolden’s absence on Thursday could be an indication of Bill Belichick‘s final decision at the position.
Blount isn’t reading too much into the situation, though. Instead, he’s maintaining his usual even-keeled attitude and just hoping for the best.
“As of now, it’s just hoping for the best and seeing how things go with this roster spot the next couple days,” Blount said in the Patriots’ locker room after Thursday’s game. “I just keep on working. I did everything I could to plead my case and now I just gotta keep on working. Hopefully they like me enough to keep me.”
Blount has reason to be optimistic after putting together a strong preseason. He busted out of the gate with a memorable game in the Patriots’ preseason opener, carrying the ball 11 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including a pinball-esque 51-yard scamper that sent Patriots fans into an uproar of excitement. He didn’t enjoy quite the same success in either of his other two preseason outings, but he did finish the exhibition period with 24 carries for 137 yards, two scores and a 5.7 yards-per-carry average — not too shabby.
Bolden didn’t manage anywhere near the same success, although he wasn’t given as many opportunities. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound bruiser has shown flashes of the explosiveness that had the Patriots so riled up about him last season, but he never seemed able to put it all together on the field. Bolden led the Patriots in rushing during their second preseason game against the Buccaneers, rushing six times for 36 yards, but he didn’t provide much of an impact otherwise. Bolden finished the preseason with 11 carries for 58 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and two catches for 12 yards, but it still didn’t seem like enough to bypass Blount.
Even with that knowledge in mind, Blount is keeping his expectations in check and taking solace in the fact that he did all he could.
“I wouldn’t say confident, but I did everything I could to plead my case,” Blount said. “I feel like I did everything I could to let them know I want to be here.”
Blount wasn’t among the Patriots’ 10 cuts on Friday, giving him at least one more to day in a Patriots uniform. And, if the preseason has been any indication, it won’t be his last.