Paralyzed Eric LeGrand inspires new Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates

From left, Eric LeGrand, Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik talk at practice. LeGrand says his improvement is surprising doctors.
From left, Eric LeGrand, Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik talk at practice. LeGrand says his improvement is surprising doctors.
Published June 5, 2012

TAMPA — Eric LeGrand remains confident he'll walk one day. But overcoming his paralysis will take time.

In the meantime, the former Rutgers player who was paralyzed in a game nearly two years ago and ceremoniously added to the Bucs' roster last month will settle for impacting others.

First, LeGrand, who on Tuesday was introduced by his former coach, Bucs coach Greg Schiano, helped inspire his new teammates, speaking to Tampa Bay players after their morning practice at One Buc Place.

Later, in his first news conference since joining the roster last month, LeGrand announced he has started a charitable organization to help others in similar situations, an effort that will be partially funded by sales of his Bucs jersey.

"It's going to help spinal cord research and also help people who don't have the right insurance or the right equipment in their recovery," LeGrand said.

But mostly, LeGrand used Tuesday to express gratitude to the Bucs for making a longtime wish come to pass. The Bucs' decision to place him on their roster comes in the same year that LeGrand would have been eligible for the NFL draft.

"I've been playing this game since I was 5 years old," LeGrand said. "My whole goal was to get to the NFL.

"… Laying there on the field (injured), I didn't know if I was going to die right there, was that going to be the end of my life. But it just shows you, good things happen to good people."

The Bucs see the move as a tribute to LeGrand's fortitude. And LeGrand continues to show his resilience. He elatedly shared that he is experiencing sensations in areas doctors never expected.

"They saw the muscle activity, when I'm trying to tell the muscle to move," LeGrand said. "That's what they can't explain because they've never seen anything like it before.

"It's just miracles. I can't explain it if they can't explain it. I just say it's me believing in God and working hard every day and being an athlete, going out there and fighting through my therapy every day."

MARTIN DEBUTS: The Bucs have had a bit of a different look in the backfield this week.

First-round pick Doug Martin, nursing a hamstring injury during the past few weeks, finally is participating at full speed.

It was a long-anticipated moment for the coaching staff, and Schiano was happy to offer his pleasant first impressions.

"He's only done it two days (Monday and Tuesday), but he's done some nice things," Schiano said. "You can see he has good vision. That's one of the things you can't teach. You can teach a lot of things, but for me to see daylight over here when I'm looking over there, that's a gift."

No, the Bucs aren't tackling in their offseason workouts. They're not even permitted to wear pads. But the vision is something coaches can assess without contact.

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"It's good to see him out there," Schiano said. "You watch all the college tape but we haven't actually had an opportunity to see him run our offense."

PRICE'S RETURN: DT Brian Price, who was struggling emotionally and physically after the death of his older sister last month, did not participate in Tuesday's practice. Based on Schiano's cryptic answers, Price appears to be dealing with an unspecified injury.

Asked about Price's status — he was hospitalized after his sister's death — Schiano couldn't say whether Price would be able to participate in next week's mandatory minicamp.

"It's a combination of things," Schiano said. "I'm hopeful that he'll be able to go, but we'll have to play that by ear. If it's not the minicamp, then in six weeks (for training camp), I would hope so."

Asked whether the issues keeping him out are related to pelvic and hamstring issues Price has been battling, Schiano said, "It may be related to that. I don't think it's that specifically, but he's had some issues. Hopefully that will work itself out."