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Not So Fast, Ducks!!!
Here’s hoping it goes slow.
Maybe the Pac-10 Conference will do the Ducks a favor and keep Blount on the sideline for another week, or until the end of the month. Whatever the case, what’s best for the football program — and not the guy who embarrassed it — should be at the center of the decision.
You don’t mess with a streak.
Oregon is 7-0 without its “star” running back. He’s been practicing, working out and looking on as his team dominated USC, among others, on its way to the No. 8 spot in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.
Blount has watched LaMichael James become a star in his absence. He’s watched Kenjon Barner become a nice change-of-pace back. He’s been pushed to a quiet scout-team corner of the Ducks successful operation and is getting what kids who go to college often get — the education of a lifetime.
A human-being decision, as Kelly has called it?
The coach cares about Blount. And he wants the running back to have a chance to make you forget that awful scene on the field at Boise State. But Kelly’s job is to lead his football program and not to serve as Blount’s liaison to a NFL career. And right now you have to be concerned that bringing back Blount only means that you’re bringing back a distraction.
We’re sold all the time the idea that the team must come before the individual. We talk about players “buying in” to a communal philosophy that puts the good of the masses first. And so we have the needs of Blount, whose 18-month college career in Eugene now includes three suspensions, suddenly first?
I love that Blount didn’t go AWOL after his latest suspension. He stuck around, remained in shape and served as a tackling dummy for a defense that is the best in the conference. There’s value in that, but it’s not enough for me to look past what’s right, and bringing Blount back now in any meaningful capacity is a sketchy decision.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said he holds ultimate authority. I cringe at the idea of the conference having higher standards than the leadership at Oregon. Scott said he’ll review the agreement between Blount and Kelly, and speak to all parties once the decision is in his hands.
We keep being told that Blount’s probable reinstatement this week is a “human-being” decision. But what of the humans like the one-time backup James and his Ducks teammates, who seized an opportunity and turned it into magic?
People make mistakes all the time. Blount knows what he did was wrong and unfortunate. And we earn extra chances, yes, but I’m not sold that the next chance for Blount should be one in which he’s handed back a significant role for a team that has moved forward brilliantly without him.
It’s dynamite on the tracks today. And maybe the hesitation we’re seeing from Oregon is the institution reconsidering to what extent it’s willing to bring Blount back. As a back-up? As a special teams player? As a guy who will, or won’t, carry the ball in meaningful situations?
Or maybe the Ducks (and the conference) are waiting for a less distracting point of entry. One that wouldn’t risk putting everything the rest of the team has accomplished at risk. One that feels less sketchy.
The question isn’t should Oregon bring Blount back? It’s did he ever really leave? Blount has been around his teammates all along, has been given the blessing of a scholarship and now, potentially, another opportunity.
He should be thrilled with the opportunity he’s about to be handed. And I hope he makes the best of it when it does happen.
But right now, there’s just too much risk here for the program. And Kelly’s job description includes protecting it, too, doesn’t it?