Say, remember how LeGarrette Blount crapped the bed harder than you’d ever seen anyone in college football ever crap a bed in your life? In the span of one game on awful blue turf (and one very eventful postgame), Blount went from a strong contender for first-team all-Pac-10, high draft choice and darkhorse Heisman candidate to a man whose season would end with 6 more suspensions than rushing yards - and he only got suspended once. Shortly thereafter, Chip Kelly announced that Blount’s suspension was to last the season, and that was that on the senior’s collegiate career.
But that wasn’t, in fact, that. It never is, really. Despite being a suspended senior with no ostensible hope of playing another meaningful down for Oregon, Blount was never kicked off the team. He began the apology parade shortly thereafter, and even met with the original face-wrecker of sports, Kermit Washington. And lo and behold, just as we mused this afternoon in light of his published apology to the OREGON DAILY EMERALD, Kelly’s about to take the next step toward bringing Blount back in a few weeks. You could just knock us over with a feather, really.
The news broke tonight from the REGISTER-GUARD (Eugene, OR):
Oregon coach Chip Kelly will address the status of suspended running back LeGarrette Blount with media following the Ducks’ walk-through Friday, UO officials said. It is believed that Kelly will introduce the possibility that Blount could play again this season.
Blount has practiced intermittently with the Ducks as a scout-team player, missing some workouts for appointments that are believed to include some form of on-campus counseling.
Yes, it’s a flip-flop from Kelly, but it’s hardly a fast track back to the field of play; as ESPN’s Joe Schad reported on TWITTER, Blount’s expected to return in 3-5 weeks, giving him… well, 3-5 games left in the regular season.
It did seem odd at first that this announcement would come so soon; it’s been less than a month since Blount’s original incident and suspension. But at the very least, if Schad’s to be believed (and his reputation’s pretty solid), we’re still only about halfway through Blount’s suspension. Lots can happen between then and now.
The deeper issue at work, though, is that this appears to be the second easy-but-incorrect decision Kelly has made on the matter. For one, Blount shouldn’t have been suspended for the season in the first place. The rather obvious call was for an indefinite, conditional suspension, not a death sentence on the young man’s collegiate career.
After all, word had it that Byron Hout had set Blount off with the dreaded Neutron Bomb, and it was plainly obvious that Hout had taunted Blount in some unsolicited fashion immediately before that nasty right cross.
Mistake #2, then, is keeping Blount on the team anyway, then capitulating and leaving the door open for reinstatement down the road. Iit’s dangerously inconsistent; despite his long history with the program, Kelly’s only in his first year in the captain’s chair for Oregon, and he has yet to set a disciplinary precedent. If that precedent is “don’t take me at my word when I announce a duration of penalty, because I will cave,” Kelly is practically inviting misbehavior from his players. Oh, like you never looked for ways to manipulate rules and their makers when you were 18-23 years old. Right.
At the very least, though, Oregon seems to be doing well enough without Blount on the field; they just incinerated Top 10 California last weekend by the count of 42-3, and they haven’t lost since that fateful night on the Smurf Turf. In other words, this doesn’t appear to be a decision made by Kelly for purely selfish gain.
Of course, there’s no telling what hell gets unleashed if Blount screws up again. Kelly is putting his young neck out for Blount, and that euphemism only exists because sometimes, that neck gets chopped.
But until Blount actually does screw up again, of course, this is all just speculation and we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If Kelly’s going to grant him a second chance, we at least owe it to Blount to have the opportunity to make something of it before piling more dirt on. Still, our worries about the Chip Kelly regime extend far longer than LeGarrette Blount’s abridged collegiate career.