PHOENIX — Running back LeGarrette Blount’s early exit from the Pittsburgh Steelers this season has been a major dose of good fortune for the New England Patriots.
Blount has reasserted himself as the centerpiece of the Patriots’ running game entering their Super Bowl meeting Sunday with the Seattle Seahawks. That comes at the end of a season that Blount began with the Steelers. An incident in which he left the field before the game ended led to his release, allowing him to re-join the Patriots, the team with which he spent the 2013 season.
“Things didn’t work out as planned [in Pittsburgh],” Blount said here Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. “We decided to part ways and I ended up here, and now I’m about to play in the Super Bowl.”
Blount declined to discuss specifics Tuesday of the Nov. 17 incident in which he walked off the field as the Steelers were wrapping up a 27-24 triumph at Tennessee in a Monday night game. He refused to answer questions about why he left the field before the game ended, and about whether the Steelers had promised him a larger role when he signed with them last season. Blount totaled only 266 rushing yards in 11 games for Pittsburgh while the Steelers’ starter at tailback, Le’Veon Bell, was busy becoming the league’s second-leading rusher.
He did say that he “made some really good, close friends” during his brief stay in Pittsburgh. But asked whether he owes those in Pittsburgh a public explanation for what happened, Blount said simply: “No.”
The Steelers released Blount the day after the Titans game, and the Patriots quickly re-signed him.
“They knew that I could run the football,” Blount said. “They know that I can be effective with it. They know that I have big-play potential. They like my style of running and I fit in perfectly with this offense. It was a perfect matchup.”
Safety Devin McCourty said Patriots players were not concerned about what had happened in Pittsburgh, nor about the talk at the time that Blount had given up on his team and was an unreliable teammate.
“When he came back, we were like, ‘LeGarrette’s back,’ ” McCourty said. “He honestly picked up where he left off. What happened in Pittsburgh didn’t matter. It’s like everybody that comes here. What you did on a previous team, that doesn’t matter. It’s all about who you are on the Patriots. I think that’s why you see guys be successful. The past doesn’t matter.”
Blount ran for 281 yards in his five games for the Patriots late in the regular season. He was even more effective against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game, rushing for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.
“We have a lot of great backs here …. LG just kind of takes another element to the field with his power and his speed,” Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola said.
The Patriots have a versatile offense in which the focus can change from game to game. The running game was virtually nonexistent in their earlier playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens, with just seven handoffs. Quarterback Tom Brady never even handed the ball to a running back during the second half of that game. But Blount was busy against the Colts.
The threat of Blount as a runner could be a significant factor Sunday as the Patriots face a powerful Seattle defense that dominated another legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning, and the Denver Broncos in last season’s Super Bowl.
“They gave me a chance to come out here and show what I can do, what I’ve been doing in this league for a couple years,” Blount said. “I can run the football and I can do it effectively. I was excited to become another asset to the team, another part of the team and the weapons that they have. I was excited with the fact they gave me a chance to come back and be part of what’s going on today. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. I just wanted to show people that I can still run the football.”
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