Can Oregon put the punch in the past?
The Oregon Ducks are looking to put LeGarrette Blount's punch and suspension in the past by focusing on Purdue this weekend, although there's little doubt the drama will have lingering effects.
"LeGarrette's not going to be here so we have to move on," was how linebacker Spencer Paysinger summed up the team's mindset.
Blount appeared briefly at practice on Tuesday, but did not suit up. He did not speak to reporters.
The running back was suspended last Friday after he punched Boise State defensive end Byron Hout following the Broncos' 19-8 victory over the Ducks the night before. Hout was seen taunting Blount, who threw a right that hit Hout's jaw and knocked him to his knees.
Blount was allowed to keep his scholarship. He can practice with the Ducks, but cannot play in games or in the postseason, effectively ending his career in Eugene.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly was brusque in describing Blount's appearance at practice during a conference call with Pac-10 coaches.
"Yep," he said. "We have a plan in place for LeGarrette to move forward and he has followed that plan."
Blount and Kelly this weekend called Hout and Boise State coach Chris Petersen to apologize. They also reached out to Kermit Washington, the former NBA player who horrifically leveled Rudy Tomjanovich with a punch during an on-court brawl in 1977.
Kelly said he heard from Miami coach Randy Shannon, who was the defensive coordinator when the Hurricanes were involved in a melee against Florida International in 2006.
The rest of the Ducks had the weekend off to mull over what happened before returning to practice on Monday. While the media gathered to see if and when Blount would show, the players tried to shift the attention to Purdue.
"I wouldn't say it's been difficult to put it behind us. We had a meeting earlier and we talked about how the best way to bounce back is to respond against Purdue," Paysinger said.
The Ducks don't only have to overcome the punch, which undeniably tarnished Oregon's reputation, they also have to figure out how they fared so poorly against the Broncos on national television.
Oregon had just 152 yards offense during the game, the program's worst showing in nearly 15 years. The Ducks had just six first downs — compared to 22 for Boise State. And in all, the offense had the ball for just 17 minutes and 28 seconds.
"We didn't really get into a rhythm until the third quarter," quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said. "Us not getting any first downs in the first half is pretty much why we didn't win the game. We were just out of sync. There's really not much more you can say."
The loss dropped the Ducks out of the AP Top 25. They were ranked No. 16 to start the season.
Oregon must also try to replace Blount, who rushed for 1,002 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns last season.
Redshirt freshman LeMichael James was listed atop Oregon's depth chart in Blount's place, although Kelly said he will rotate James with fellow redshirt freshman Kenjon Barner and senior Andre Crenshaw.
Kelly, in his first year as head coach after two seasons as Oregon's offensive coordinator, made no bones about wanting to distance the Ducks from the punch, although national attention persisted.
"The conversation about LeGarrette is done," Kelly said. "It's how do we move forward and what are the actions that take place for him to move forward as a person."
The players, caught in the tough spot between standing by a teammate while condemning his actions, are also hoping the storm blows over soon.
"It's not a black cloud. It'll show our character, how we bounce back from this," said tight end Ed Dickson.
, one of Blount's best friends on the team. "Now a couple of other guys have an opportunity to step in and make some plays."