Blount: "Nobody can affect my carries but me.''
Not unlike his bulldozing running style, LeGarrette Blount is not going to dance around an issue when he can plow through it. So when asked how the Bucs selection of Boise State running back Doug Martin will affect his workload, Blount did not stiff-arm the topic.
"I think nobody can affect my carries but me,'' Blount said. "They drafted him because we needed him. But at the end of the day, we're both going to play. Don't nobody affect my carries but me, not what he does, not what anybody else does, just how I practice and how fast I get the offense down pat and everything like that. That's the only thing that will affect my carries.''
So despite the addition of Martin and Utah State running back Michael Smith, does Blount see himself as the starting tailback?
"Yeah,'' he said smiling, "until they take it away.''
That's not to suggest that Blount couldn't see what was happening at the running back position shortly after coach Greg Schiano was hired from Rutgers. In March, Schiano was critical of Blount's lack of ball security. In two pro seasons, Blount has fumbled nine times, losing six.
With only Blount and Mosis Madu on the roster at running back, it was inevitable the Bucs would fortify that position, perhaps with the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft. Tampa Bay traded down two spots to select Alabama safety Mark Barron while picking up a fourth-round pick. They then used that extra selection to trade back into the first round and take Martin 31st overall.
Even before the draft, Blount knew the Bucs were going to find someone to come after his job. So he took advantage of the off-season program to lose between five and 10 pounds. "I kind of had the idea they were going to draft another guy, so you've got to come back in the best shape possible,'' Blount said.
On the first day of the Bucs' Organized Team Activities Tuesday, Blount took his spot as the No. 1 tailback while a gimpy Martin worked on another field with a trainer helping him recover from a hamstring strain.
Blount, who has been the Bucs' leading rusher the past two seasons with 1,788 yards and 11 touchdowns (4.6 average), has rarely been used on passing downs or even much as a receiver. He has 20 career receptions for 162 yards and no touchdowns. Under new Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, Blount hopes to get more opportunities in the passing game.
"I'm proving more and more every day that I can play on every down,'' Blount said.
In fact, Blount believes the addition of Martin and Smith will eventually make him a more complete player.
"I think I will become a better player having other guys compete for the job,'' Blount said. "Them drafting a running back might have been what I needed to become an every down back. So, you know, you've got to compete, you've got to be a competitor and competition is what makes guys better than what they would usually be.
"You can never be comfortable. Nobody in the NFL can ever be comfortable. You have your select few that can. Adrian Petersons and your Ray Rices and your Arian Fosters -- those guys. You have a handful that can be comfortable in their offense no matter who you draft. No, I haven't gotten comfortable, I haven't established that kind of credibility yet.''
Schiano said ultimately, performance in training camp and preseason games will determine which running back gets the bigger share of the workload.
"It's way to early for that,'' Schiano said. "We have to see who performs. As we talked about earlier, you earn your touches. So depending on how you practice and how you play in the preseason, that will determine how many touches you get by percentage, whether its ballcarriers or pass catches or whatever. Pass catchers sometimes the defense can dictate a little more. But ballcarriers? We make that decision.''