LeGarrette Blount back in Patriots backfield

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FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — There was no name over his locker stall and he had yet to officially secure the number he'll wear this Sunday.

Still, it was clear LeGarrette Blount was happy to be back with the New England Patriots.

"It feels real good. I was excited to hear about it," the running back said after Friday's practice.

After walking to the locker room before his team left the field Monday night at Tennessee, Blount was released by the Steelers. The Patriots, getting along without Stevan Ridley (knee surgery) but on the heels of a breakout game by Jonas Gray, quickly signed Blount to a two-year deal.

So, he wasn't gone long.

"We tried to sign LeGarrette in the offseason," said coach Bill Belichick, whose team was beaten out for the free agent by Pittsburgh. "That didn't work out, which is the NFL; it's the business part of the NFL. He was released, he was available and we were able to work it out for him to come back here. Glad to have him back."

Said Blount, who ran for 772 yards and seven touchdowns in the 2013 regular season, then ripped off four TDs and 172 yards in a playoff game against Indianapolis: "I got the news after the waivers was over that they wanted to bring me here and I was excited about it. I wanted to be back. So it's a good thing that they brought me back. I'm ready to play ball."

"I'm in good shape," he added. "I'm going to stay ready and whenever they call me to carry the ball, I'm going to go out there and do whatever I can to make them comfortable with their decision to bring me back."

Blount was asked what happened in Pittsburgh. He ran for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 65 carries with the Steelers but didn't get a touch Monday night.

"I don't really want to talk about it, but just the fact that that opened up another opportunity for me to get back here ended up being a good thing," he said.

Blount did admit he thought the decision to sign with the Steelers was the right one at the time. Now, he's back playing for Belichick, who said Blount's role will be defined by, well, Blount.

"It means a lot and Bill's a straightforward shooter," Blount said. "He's a 100 percent honest person and I truly believe that if I do what I have to do, then I'll make myself a role on this team, and whatever I have to do I'm going to do it to be productive."

About his number, which was 29 when he was with the team. When he arrived back in the locker room, the number belonged to safety Don Jones, and Blount wore 60 in practice. Running backs have to be between Nos. 20 and 49 and there was reportedly some negotiating going on.

Soon after practice word came down Blount will be No. 29 against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Jones said he has asked for No. 31 and the club confirmed that will be his number.

Blount's teammates, meanwhile, were happy to have him back.

"It's cool. It's cool," said fellow running back Shane Vereen. "He was missed early in the season — not necessarily from an on-the-field standpoint but more off the field, the camaraderie, having him around. It's really good to have (him) back."

NOTES: The Patriots wouldn't confirm multiple reports that Gray was sent home after arriving late for practice Friday. Belichick's rule is if you're late you don't practice. Gray was listed on the team's injury report as not participating for "non-injury" reasons. Cornerback Darrelle Revis had the same problem earlier this season and the only punishment was being sent home. . The team's Hall of Fame has added artifacts from Gray's 201 yards and team-record four touchdowns against Indianapolis last Sunday night.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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