On May 2nd the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Eric LeGrand as an undrafted free agent. LeGrand played at Rutgers when he was hurt on October 16, 2010 in a game against Army. The former defensive tackle suffered two fractured vertebrae and a serious spinal cord injury. The end result was that LeGrand was paralyzed and told he was going to spend the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. He has made great strides and can sit and stand for small amounts of time, but he is still confined to his wheelchair. After his injury he became very close and inseparable friends with his head coach at the time, Greg Schiano.
January 27, 2012 Schiano left the Rutgers program and became the head coach of the Buccaneers. After the draft they offered LeGrand a free agent contract that had no monetary value. It is a three year deal and is a very nice gesture to a kid that has a great attitude and seems to be an all around good person. His positiveness has become an inspiration for many around the world.
But after following this story for several weeks now, one has to ask this question. Did the Bucs sign him in a classy move or was this a publicity stunt after a horrible 2011 season? The team had 5 blackouts out of 7 home games and attendance was on the decline. (They played one home game in London). They won only 4 games out of 16 and in a lot of them they got blown out. Schiano has come in to turn the ship around and the team has lowered ticket price to try to win back some fans. When a team is trying to win back fans they need publicity. Is this whole thing with Eric LeGrand about being a classy organization, or is the team using him as a publicity stunt as they try to win back the fans?
If Greg Schiano took a coaching job in Seattle would Tampa Bay have signed him? Probably not. Would the Buccaneers have even paid Eric LeGrand any attention at all? Probably not. A lot of people said the signing was a classy move by the team. And I agreed. But wouldn’t a classy move have been to sign him to a contract for 3 years for say, $1 million? To help him and his family with medical expenses and things of that nature? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could certainly afford to do that. After all he is on the roster and taking up a spot. The move was a nice gesture but doubtfully a classy move. In a time when the team desperately needs fans to come into its building they are looking for anything they can do to get public attention. And taking advantage of a kid, for free, that suffered a career ending injury, to make themselves look better in the public eye is not a classy move. It’s disgusting and the Buccaneers should be ashamed of themselves.
I have seen and heard many interviews that Eric Legrand has done over the last 6 weeks or so, and he seems like a great kid. He is positive, has a great attitude and has a great overall outlook on life. And he deserves better than to be used in the way the Bucs are using him for publicity.
Ray Blanchette covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Outside The Redzone. He also covers NCAA football for the Saturday Blitz. Follow along at www.saturdayblitz.com. Blanchette is the owner of Blanchette Sports Holdings. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesh.elementfx.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports.