Eric LeGrand visits Bucs for 1st time
TAMPA, Fla. -- Eric LeGrand is making quite an impression on his new teammates.
The paralyzed former Rutgers defensive tackle who signed a symbolic contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited the club's training complex for the first time Tuesday. He addressed players following practice and later announced his No. 52 jersey will be sold on the internet with proceeds benefiting spinal cord research.
"If you never found any type of motivation before, listening to him talk is definitely a confidence and motivation builder," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "He's a strong-willed guy. He's just a great person.
"We always complain about a bunch of nothing," McCoy added. "For a guy to have the sport he loves taken away from him completely to be as happy as he's ever been, what can we really complain about?"
LeGrand broke two vertebrae and suffered a serious spinal cord injury in October 2010 during a kickoff return against Army. He became an inspiration to his college teammates, eventually being able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame.
He resumed his studies via video conferences in 2011 and last fall led the Scarlet Knights onto the field before a game.
In May, the Bucs signed him to a contract with no monetary value.
First-year coach Greg Schiano left Rutgers for Tampa Bay in January and was looking for a way to honor his former player, who would have been eligible to be selected in the NFL draft this spring.
"Long before his injury and a lot of the notoriety that he's received, this was a guy who came every day to our football building and had just a tremendous attitude. He was the energizer bunny. No matter how things were going -- hot, cold, good, bad -- this guy was always upbeat," Schiano said. "I don't know if this happened to me that I could be the man Eric is."
LeGrand, flanked by Schiano at a news conference, reiterated how fortunate he feels to be part of a NFL team and to be able to impact the lives of others.
I don't know if this happened to me that I could be the man Eric is.” -- Bucs coach Greg Schiano
on Eric LeGrand
He smiled broadly while talking about addressing teammates following an OTA workout shortened by heavy rain.
"It was great to talk to those guys. ... The main thing is I just want them to appreciate everything they have. Not too many people can say that they are a NFL football player, getting paid for what they love to do every single day. ... That's something I always wanted to do, so I want them to really appreciate that, not take things for granted out there," LeGrand said.
Rookie running back Doug Martin has been slowed during OTA's by a sore hamstring. After listening to LeGrand's speech, he tried to put his injury in perspective.
"My hamstring is nothing," the first-round draft pick out of Boise State said. "It's just so impressive what he's been through and with my hammy, I've just got to put that behind me and go."
LeGrand's Buccaneers jersey is available on the team's website. In addition to raising money for spinal cord research, the paralyzed player said proceeds also will help "people who don't have the right insurance or the right equipment in their recovery, all the stuff I was fortunate to have because of my insurance."
LeGrand lives in New Jersey with his mother, but doesn't expect Tuesday's visit to be his last. He'd like to return to Florida a couple of more times this summer, then attend the Bucs' regular season opener in Tampa, as well as the club's road date against the New York Giants in Week 2.
"I plan on being around," he said, "so I'm hoping they don't get tired of me."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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