FOXBORO, Mass. — Looking at LeGarrette Blount, the first thought that comes to mind is not “kick returner.”
But that could be the 250-pound running back’s future with the Patriots. Bill Belichick likes his reserves to have value in special teams, and Blount showed some promise at the position during the Patriots’ third preseason game against the Lions, returning one kick for 27 yards.
To say Blount does not look like a typical NFL kick returner would be a major understatement. But Blount’s skillset may fit the role well. Blount’s at his best when he has room to build his speed up, then he can plow through, leap over and juke defenders at will, as we saw in his 51-yard touchdown against the Eagles.
“It helps getting the ball in space,” Blount said. “I like it. It’s 11 guys running down the field, trying to hit you. It just sometimes you gotta make a play, make a couple guys miss. That open field running comes in handy. Especially in the running game.”
Blount’s been taking reps at the return position the whole summer in a rotation. He said he’s never been given the opportunity in the NFL to return kicks because he came in and was able to start almost immediately. Now that he’s behind Stevan Ridley on the depth chart, he’ll need to find his niche on the team in another role.
“I’ve been back there practicing the whole time I’ve been here,” Blount said. “That was just my only chance to go out there and do it live, get some live action in it. I like it, though. It’s something different. It can be a good thing — be productive with it.”
With Leon Washington gone, Blount will be competing for the starting spot with players who have more experience in the role, like Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty. Those are the same players who are teaching Blount the intricacies of the return position, which he hasn’t practiced since he was in college.
“Just some guys that have done it before,” Blount said about who he was leaning on for advice. “Julian, Devin, Slater, some guys like that who have done it before, they’re giving me key pointers, some tips about it — how it’s done, some things to look out for. I just kind of look at those guys and ask some questions as I go.”
If given the opportunity to be the starter in the return game, Blount thinks he can hang with some of the best at the position, despite his size.
“I feel like I can go out there and return with anybody,” Blount said. “I can go out there and do it just like they have. Everyone have to start somewhere. I just happened to start in my fourth year.”
Belichick mentioned Blount’s rushing experience when asked about the former Buccaneers’ return skills. The head coach said Blount is learning the position quickly.
“He’s got a lot of experience carrying the ball and he has good vision, he has good running skills,” Belichick said. “He’s seemed to pick it up well.”
Blount may not have returned a kick since he was in high school, but he said he was pretty good in the role in his younger years. He has noticed a big change since the last time he did it in live action.
“I took plenty back in high school,” Blount said. “I probably took back — I don’t know, I took back a few. It was crazy how much faster it is now than back then.”
There’s no guarantee that Blount will get the starting return job. But if he does, opposing special teamers will take notice. Bringing Blount down in space will be a lot more difficult than your typical 200-pound returner.