Blount will have to accept reduced role

November, 9, 2009
11/09/09
3:55
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon coach Chip Kelly wasn't terribly expansive Monday about his decision to reinstate running back LeGarrette Blount, but the basic outline of where things stand is fairly simple:
 
 AP Photo/Matt Cilley
 LeGarrette Blount has been reinstated after serving an eight-game suspension.
  • Blount was told on Sept. 25 that he would have to climb what Kelly called "academic and behavioral ladders" in order to be reinstated. Kelly said Blount successfully did so.
  • Kelly said that there was no delay in Blount's reinstatement, even though it was announced on Oct. 2 that he could return to action as early as last weekend's Stanford game. Kelly said he didn't make a decision last week because he was still gathering information.
  • Kelly said multiple times that redshirt freshman LaMichael James remains the No. 1 running back.
  • Kelly said that Blount was running "fourth or fifth" with the running backs during the Monday morning practice. That means Blount is behind James, Kenjon Barner, Andre Crenshaw and Remene Alston on the depth chart at present.
  • Kelly said there was no specific plan at the moment to play Blount against Arizona State on Saturday in Autzen Stadium.

It's possible that Kelly didn't reinstate Blount, who was suspended after he punched a Boise State player following the season opener on Sept. 3, last week for a reason, such as a desire to have no distractions the week after the red-letter victory over USC. But that's not what he said.

It's clear, however, that Kelly and Oregon don't want Blount's return now to become a distraction as the Ducks head into a three-game final stretch where they could win or lose the Pac-10 title. Blount, who will not be made available for interviews, has been practicing with the scout team since his suspension, so he should be in reasonably good shape and his presence probably won't create much of a ripple with his teammates.

Kelly told his players of Blount's reinstatement during a meeting Monday morning. Blount then addressed the team.

"He apologized again for the incident," Kelly said. "He is anxious to get back."
 
 Kyle Terada/US Presswire
 Chip Kelly says he isn’t worried about those who might second-guess the decision to reinstate LeGarrette Blount.


Kelly fought off reporters' efforts to get him to describe specifics of the "academic and behavioral ladders," calling them "private," as well as efforts to get him to reflect on the practical and philosophical underpinnings of his decision.

Kelly didn't seem worried that many might criticize or second-guess his bringing Blount back after initially announcing the suspension was season-long.

"If I run the program based on what public opinion is, I'd have a lot of problems," Kelly said.

I previously wrote that Kelly's decision to reduce Blount's suspension was a good thing, and I still believe that.

But now that decision will be judged -- and Blount will be judged -- going forward.

Based on what we've seen out of James, Blount will play second fiddle in the Ducks' remaining games. He will, at best, get a handful of carries each weekend. The first order of business for him is to accept a reduced role with a "whatever you need, coach."

And, obviously, he needs to continue to climb those "academic and behavioral ladders."

The fact is, Oregon's success this season makes this situation much easier for Kelly. When Blount initially melted down, some coupled that with the anemic effort in the game and speculated that Kelly was another great coordinator who was in over his head as a head coach.

The number of folks at present who think Kelly can't handle being a head coach is somewhere between zero and none at all. That, of course, could change. Nature of the business. Genius today, idiot tomorrow. But Kelly's first year has been impressive in many ways.

Therefore, the entire weight of this falls on Blount. He will live his life under a microscope for as long as he's playing football in front of large crowds. That's the burden of doing what he did on national television.

He can do enough -- even with just a few carries -- during the remaining weeks to earn a shot at an NFL career. This is a great opportunity for him to start rebuilding his reputation.

The ball has been handed back to Blount. Now can he run with it, on and off the field?

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