FOXBORO -- LeGarrette Blount was a problem player.
When the Patriots traded return specialist Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay for Blount in April, the deal was tinged with doubt. Blount was flagged for character concerns in college at Oregon. Despite rushing for over 1,000 and scoring a record 17 touchdowns as a junior in 2008, it was his sucker-punch of an opponent in the 2009 season opener that NFL teams focused on.
He went undrafted in 2010. Tampa Bay picked Blount up and gave him snaps, but his work ethic was consistently questioned.
So where did New England find confidence in the trade?
"I think definitely an assist on this one has to go to our assistant pro personnel director –- [cornerback Aqib] Talib –- who I talked to before we traded for LeGarrette and everything he said about him was absolutely right," Bill Belichick smiled after New England's win over Buffalo Sunday. "He’s a good football player who loves to play, works hard and is a team player; great guy for the team in the locker room. He’s been all those things."
Talib and Blount played together for three tough years in Tampa.
The Buccaneers went 21-27 between 2010 and 2012. Blount rushed for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns on 201 carries as a rookie. He was also fined more than $15,000 for being late to practice, prompting the team to hire a car service with a driver who would wake Blount and chauffeur him to Tampa's facility. He was accused of lacking commitment.
Blount's carries dropped to 184 in 2011. Tampa Bay's brass made its displeasure crystal clear the following offseason by drafting first-round running back Doug Martin. Blount's rushing attempts plummeted to 41 in 2012.
Falling from such a height was humbling.
That's why Talib didn't mind crowing on behalf of his friend Sunday night. Blount had set a single-game career high for rushing yards with 189. He also had 145 yards on two kickoff returns.
And his team's trust.
"I told you. You're going to get a lot of explosive plays from him, and he gonna be great in this locker room. You're not gonna have a problem with him in this locker room," Talib said.
"That's wonderful -- have a day like that, a game like that. Be on the same team with me again man. Live right next door to me. Hey, I can't do nothing but smile. That's my dog."
Blount grinned when told of 'assistant pro personnel director' Talib's recommendation.
"He a Pro-Bowler. He's got to be a good judge of talent; he's talent itself," he laughed.
It is funny to imagine Talib lobbying Bill Belichick to bring a friend aboard. Luckily, Talib's bid was legitimate. The Patriots have gambled in the past on troubled players -- recently with Chad Johnson and Albert Haynesworth -- and lost.
The way Belichick talked after the Buffalo game about Blount made it clear this acquisition has paid off.
"He’s made contributions for us all year. You were at the Atlanta game. You’ve been at all the games. He’s contributed for us all year."
Blount has chipped in throughout the season, but has elevated his game in recent weeks. He has 772 yards and seven touchdowns on 153 carries, and 398 of the yards were gained in New England's last five games. The team's lead back out of training camp, Stevan Ridley, has rushed 178 times for 773 yards and seven TD's.
Jeff Demps played two games for Tampa Bay before going on injured reserve.
A win for New England. A win for Blount.
Hell, it's a win for Talib: "I'm just excited for him."