On the Steelers: Twist in Blount's career raises a suspicious eyebrow
November 23, 2014 12:00 AM
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Did LeGarrette Blount walk out on the Steelers so he could walk right back to the New England Patriots?
There is no evidence that occurred, but the way the whole thing transpired can raise suspicions and speculation that it was planned. Without skipping a beat, Blount went from a team fighting to make the playoffs to one among the favorites to win it all, one where he had success last season and was used more often than he was with the Steelers.
The Steelers should have made Blount pay some kind of price for walking out. They could have docked him a game check for leaving the one in Tennessee early under NFL rules that govern conduct detrimental to the team. And instead of cutting him, they could have tried to suspend him for a game as they did with former halfback Rashard Mendenhall — then cut him once that was up.
Instead, Blount is rewarded for his pouting, his attitude and his AWOL routine by stepping right into a New England uniform. The Patriots pick up another useful player at rock-bottom price, one whom Bill Belichick has coached after passing on him when he became a free agent this year.
Why wouldn’t there be suspicions that it was all planned? Although there are tampering rules that prohibit players of one team or their representatives from contacting other teams, that goes on all the time. Who is to know if someone’s agent calls someone on another team and says his halfback could easily get out of his contract with his team if the other would like to have him? No one would know except the agent and the other team’s rep.
That is why the Steelers should have docked Blount and tried to suspend him. Disgruntled players on other teams might see what happened in his case and start planning their own escapes.
There are no NFL rules to prevent what Blount or the Patriots did, not that New England did anything wrong. Maybe there should be a rule that if one player walks out on his team, that player cannot rejoin another team for a month.
The Steelers, by the way, are not necessarily obligated to the $317,647 left on Blount’s contract this year with them (they are obligated to nothing of the $2 million salary he was due by them next season). It has nothing to do with Blount signing for minimum wage with the Patriots.
A vested veteran like Blount can collect the unpaid balance of his salary — provided he was on the roster for the first game of the season — in termination pay, but players can claim termination pay only once in their career. Blount can wait to claim that $317,647 in the future, but there might come a time where he would prefer to claim it from another team if he is terminated by them and is owed more than the amount he would collect from the Steelers.
One more thing: Blount can join the rare group of players who played 17 games in one regular season because the Patriots, who play the Detroit Lions today in Foxborough, Mass., already had their off week.
Who would be the two players considered keys to the Steelers fortunes over the next five games? Veteran cornerback Ike Taylor came up with two surprises, including one very big one: Rookies Martavis Bryant and Daniel McCullers.
He did not mean that Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown won’t play instrumental roles down the stretch, but that these are two rookies who were counted on from the beginning who could help them now.
“Martavis, he’s going to be one of the keys to how far we go,” Taylor said. “I truly believe between him and 62, big Dan, they’re going to be key. We’re going to rely on the veteran guys, like 84, we know what they’re going to do week to week, but I think just personally for us, those two young guys I just said are going to help us out a lot.
“Big Dan has a feature, he’s one of the few humans that big, that strong and that athletic that can play football, let alone walk on the Earth. There’s not too many guys his size walking the Earth, man. I’m talking about a man who is what, 6-9, 360? Not an ounce of body fat. Just like a big baby.
“Martavis, you’re seeing what he’s doing. He’s coming into his own — six touchdowns in five games … could have had a seventh. All he wants to do is work. He doesn’t say too much. He doesn’t pout and whine. He comes in and practices. He does what he needs to do. He tries to get better and he leaves. That’s kind of uncommon for a rookie, you know? But that’s what he’s doing. Big Dan, he does the same thing.
“When you see rookie guys like that, man, and they’re willing to help out and you see them getting better over the course of weeks, you say, man, this guy is going to help us or he’s going to be one of the keys to our success.”
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