Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can do more damage.
We could not blame LeGarrette Blount if he changed the cliché Mom and Dad taught us.
Words have hurt him. He has been bullied.
The Tampa Bay Bucs running back has taken a lot of hits this preseason, but most have come off the field.
He has become the poster child for how quickly an NFL career can go down the drain.
Blount might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He has to share the running back load with rookie Doug Martin, who has been elevated to golden boy status though he has yet to play in an NFL regular season game.
It has become fashionable to predict Blount's demise as if there were a Pulitzer at stake.
The pundits say the 5-foot-9, 223-pound Martin can run and catch and understands blocking schemes, that he is a man for all situations.
Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said the compact back reminds him of Ray Rice, one of the NFL's biggest stars.
Shouldn't we exercise a little patience?
At 6-0, 247 pounds, Blount is a big back. His stature is growing, but only among a small audience that appreciates him for not complaining or pouting.
He did run for 1,007 yards just two years ago averaging 5 yards per carry. We should not bury him so fast. He is just 25.
"It doesn't matter to me
whether I am the starter or backup. In certain situations they are going to need him (Martin) more than me and in other situations they are going to need me a lot more than him." Blount says. "We both want to get our share of carries and we will. We are two different-style backs.
When the Bucs won the Super Bowl, they had a 1-2 punch (Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott)."
In the Bucs' preseason win over the Patriots on Friday, they needed Martin more, though Blount might have been feeling the effects of an injured thigh and was limited for precautionary reasons.
Martin had 53 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 12 yards. Blount ran the ball seven times for 22 yards.
Blount has been labeled fumble prone. He says that's in the past.
"Coach Schiano tells us without the football you can't win games," Blount says. "We made a point to change the way we handle the football, and I am changing how I carry it. Look at San Francisco (NFL-leading plus-28 turnover margin) and then look at us (NFL-worst minus-16). It's a huge factor."
Blount dismisses criticism that he can't understand blocking schemes well enough to be on the field on third down and that his hands are made of stone. He says he can be an effective receiver out of the backfield, particularly with his size.
Blount says Martin's arrival has not changed the way he approaches the game, that he was going to improve his ball security regardless.
"I am OK with Doug. He is a good player, and they drafted him for a reason. I know they appreciate what I do. If they didn't I wouldn't be here," he says.
Schiano has made it clear that in the NFL you need two quality backs at a minimum and is grateful Blount and Martin are so different.
Though they do it with a different style, both are skilled at extending plays, Blount with his brute strength and Martin with his shiftiness and agility.
"It happens a lot of times. (Defenders) think I'm going down; they don't know that I got the hand down and I'm still up. It definitely becomes an advantage," Martin says.
Former Florida Gator Jeff Demps had quite an NFL debut against the Bucs with three rushes for 41 yards, two kick returns for 44 yards and 1 punt return for 16 yards. "Whenever they call my number I will be ready," he said ... After finishing last in the NFL in 2011 with 23 sacks, the Bucs sacked Tom Brady twice (Michael Bennett and Adam Haywood). Bennett credited it to Schiano's new defense. "They're asking us to be more disciplined, and I think that at the end of the day that's helping us out. People are in places they are supposed to be," Bennett said. ... Schiano's decision to move Ronde Barber to safety and insert rookie Mark Barron at the other safety spot paid off with Barber tipping a Brady pass that Barron returned for a touchdown. "I felt like we did a great job against him (Brady) and put a lot of pressure on him; like we had him rattled a little bit," Barron said. That might be a reach, but it sounded good for one night ... Brady's response? "I held on to the ball too long. They just got me as I was throwing the ball. You have to eliminate those throws."
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.