Published November 20, 2014
This punch won't be so costly for LeGarrette Blount.
The rookie running back capped off a feisty night practice for the Tennessee Titans with a short punch to the helmet of defensive end Eric Bakhtiari a few moments after having his own helmet ripped off for the second time in as many plays.
Blount had just returned to the Titans on Wednesday night after being excused since Sunday for personal reasons. He was carrying the ball in a drill near the goal line when his helmet came off, and he kept his feet moving toward the end zone.
The play ended with some pushing and shoving, then Blount threw a right into Bakhtiari's facemask. Blount quickly talked to coach Jeff Fisher before leaving the field.
"He apologized, and I said he didn't have to apologize," Fisher said. "It's football. It's training camp."
Blount was suspended by the University of Oregon for eight games of last season for punching Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after a game on Sept. 3. Without much of a senior season, Blount went undrafted.
The Titans, having traded away LenDale White, brought in Blount as a free agent.
On the play that sparked Wednesday's scuffle, Blount said his helmet had been intentionally pulled off the play before. A new NFL rule going into effect this season stops the play when a player's helmet comes off. Then his helmet came off again. Blount said he apologized to Fisher because he had promised the coach his fighting days were behind him.
"That was my past. It just came up again. I got into one of those situations where the defense pushed me too far. With training camp and everything going the way it is and being as intense as it is and me being a rookie, it was just something I shouldn't have done. But I did it," Blount said.
Fisher downplayed the punch.
"His past is his past. Is that the first punch you've seen in camp this year? No. I'm not disappointed whatsoever. I have great confidence in the young man that he learned from his mistake, and he's very competitive. That's why we brought him in here is to watch him run the football like that," Fisher said.
Bakhtiari, with a towel draped over his head, declined to comment to reporters in the locker room.
The Titans originally had been scheduled to practice outdoors under the lights at LP Field in a closed session. Heavy rains predicted to drop at least 4 inches of rain onto the field prompted Fisher to move the practice back to the team's headquarters, and they worked inside under the lights.
It was an intense physical practice with Vince Young yelling at receivers not getting to balls, and he even got popped himself once by safety Michael Griffin. Fisher said it was the kind of session his team needed during essentially the last long week of training camp.
The Titans' preseason opener is Monday against Arizona, then the teams hold a joint practice two days later before Tennessee wraps up training camp.
Fullback Ahmard Hall called Blount's reaction just the intensity of training camp.
"If anybody else was to get mad, there wouldn't be a question. It would just be a guy getting mad. LeGarrette Blount gets mad, everybody wants to bring up his past. Guys pushed him. He reacted. It has nothing to do with what happened to him in the past," Hall said.
Notes: Starting right tackle David Stewart missed most of the practice after getting nicked above his left eye. He had to leave the field and got seven stitches. ... Defensive end Jacob Ford didn't finish practice after hurting a leg.