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Patriots’ LeGarrette Blount receptive to new challenge

LeGarrette Blount had four catches for 18 yards last season.
LeGarrette Blount had four catches for 18 yards last season.Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — LeGarrette Blount was not a happy spectator.

When the Patriots took the field for their exhibition opener against Green Bay last Thursday night, the veteran running back, sidelined with a sprained MCL in his right knee, could only watch.

Sitting out while his teammates played under the lights at Gillette Stadium had Blount itching to get back on the field.

“I always want to be out there with my guys, with the team,” said Blount, who was injured during practice on Aug. 7. “They played pretty good (in a 22-11 loss); there’s a lot of things we have to work on and we have to get better at. But besides that I like to be out there with my guys. It kind of [stinks] being out.”

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During Saturday’s final training camp session, Blount returned as a full participant for the first time since the injury and said he was thankful to be back.

“I’m healthy, good enough to play,” said Blount, who appeared to be moving without restriction. “I just had to go in and get evaluated and see what was going on. It turned out to be minor.”

The abbreviated time away from the field proved to be a bit of a silver lining, as Blount was able to take in football from afar and see some things that a player can overlook while on the field.

“You see a lot of different things,” he said. “It’s tough, though, because you’re not out there. You’re watching as a spectator. It’s hard to call it. I know if I’m out there, there’s things that I do differently than other guys and there’s things that guys do differently than me. Everybody has their own style of play.”

Blount said tweaking his own style to be a more well-rounded player, particularly in the passing attack, has been a focus throughout camp. The 6-foot, 250-pound bruiser has been featured almost exclusively as a rusher throughout his five-year career, including his two stints with New England. He caught just two passes for 38 yards in 18 games, including the postseason, during his first go-around in 2013. Last season, in eight games after being re-acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh, he had four receptions for 18 yards.

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A more versatile Blount could add another dynamic to an already potent Patriots offense, which will be searching for pass-catching options out of the backfield after the free agent departure of Shane Vereen — 52 receptions, 447 yards, three touchdowns last season — to the Giants.

“I’ve improved on catching the football; I’ve improved on a lot of things as far as other than just being a power running back. I want a chance to showcase that,” said Blount, who has 33 career receptions for 256 yards, to go along with his 3,258 yards rushing in 704 attempts.

Blount caught a pass from second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during Saturday’s practice, but said whether it’s Garoppolo or reigning Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady throwing him the ball, he’ll be ready to reel it in.

“I feel like I’ve got the same chemistry with Jimmy as I do Tom,” said Blount, who is suspended for the regular season opener against Pittsburgh for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. “[If] either one of them are going to throw me the ball I’m going to catch it. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I stay in link with those two, for sure.”

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Blount will get his first crack at showing off his new tricks in competition when the Patriots travel to West Virginia for joint practices with the New Orleans Saints Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the teams’ exhibition game Saturday night at the Superdome.

“It’s always good to go out there and bang against different guys than your own,” he said. “Me personally, I like to go out there and get a feel for guys I’m going to play against. Go out there and see what they’re going to show us. It’s always good to get off your guys and beat up on some other guys.”

Until then, Blount will continue the task of solidifying his game. It’s a task that never ends.

“I don’t ever remember playing a perfect game,” said Blount. “Even if I have 20 carries and 200 yards, I’m always going to look at something and find something [and say] I probably could’ve had 220. It’s trying to perfect my craft, that’s all.”


Eric Russo can be reached at eric.russo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@erusso22.