LeGarrette Blount Returns to Eagles Practice With His Role Still Unclear

After the Eagles' light practice Friday, a crowd of players gathered in the locker room. A loud beat played through the sound system. Some attempted to freestyle rap, others gave a quick dance move after exiting the showers. Many laughed, including running back LeGarrette Blount.

From a football perspective, most of the moment was trivial. But not that last part. Blount missed three days of practice because of a personal issue but returned Friday. It's hard to see someone perform well on the field if their mind isn't right off it.

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"Obviously, being away from the guys for a little bit, you miss them a little bit," Blount said. "It felt good to be back out."

Blount wouldn't go into specifics but said his absence was family-related. He kept in touch with running backs coach Duce Staley and head coach Doug Pederson, as well as Darren Sproles and some of the other backs. Blount claimed to have worked out while he was away. He'll be here for the remainder of camp, he said.

The question arose of whether the few days off, while certainly not ideal because of their cause, might have benefitted Blount. He will turn 31 in December and is coming off a season in which he rushed 299 times - 98 more than any other season since going undrafted out of Oregon in 2010.

"You want to be here," he said. "You definitely want to be here when you're learning new plays."

That question had an answer. But with Blount, there are plenty more that remain unanswered.

For starters, there's his weight. The Eagles' training camp media guide lists him at 250 pounds. Reports earlier this summer suggested his one-year contract includes a clause that would land him some extra cash if he showed up to camp between 240-245. Is that true? If so, did he meet the weight requirement?

"We'll see," Blount said. "... My contract is my contract, right?"

More importantly, much has been said about his role in the running back rotation. Coaches can claim to have plans, but the fact is that there are three backs on the team - Blount, Sproles and second-year player Wendell Smallwood - who figure to get touches. That doesn't even include rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey, who set the NCAA FBS record for career rushing yards but will likely need some time to become a reliable option. Pumphrey could end up being a sort of Sproles Jr.

Blount, though, is coming off a season in which he led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and tallied 1,161 yards on the ground. From that angle, it's hard to say he hasn't earned the title of featured back. But at the same time, Blount has never been a receiving threat (46 career receptions) and is a short-yardage scorer. Only two of his 18 touchdowns last year came from more than 15 yards out. Eleven of them were from the one-yard line. 

"I'm still not 100 percent sure," Blount said regarding what the offense will ask of him. "We gotta get into the games. ... I think it'll go based on game plans, so you never know.

"I'm excited about having them open a lot of doors that haven't been opened. They're open to a lot of things. They're not just putting me in a box on my own with what I can do. The opportunities are out there."

The offense's leader seemed excited too. Quarterback Carson Wentz said Blount's presence will be especially helpful in the red zone and short-yardage situations. But, just like seemingly everyone else at this point, Wentz veered away from any limitations.

"We've seen him out here in the open field," Wentz said. "I feel bad. I'm like, 'Man, if I was that safety, I wouldn't want to tackle him.' The way he moves has been a lot more impressive than I would have thought."

We likely won't get a true taste of Blount's impact on the offense until the preseason is a memory. Blount said he just wants to contribute to wins. We'll see if that overlaps with his personal vision.

"I see myself as an 18 to 20 carry back in any offense," he said.

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