Debate: Was Tampa Bay Signing Eric LeGrand A Noble Gesture or Publicity Stunt?


On May 2, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Eric LeGrand as an undrafted free agent.  LeGrand played at Rutgers before a career ending and life threatening injury on Oct. 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.

Schiano left Rutgers on January 27, 2012 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 ask whether the Bucs sign him in a classy move, or as a publicity stunt after a horrible 2011 season. Five of seven home games were blacked out from local television broadcasts due to low ticket sales. Tampa Bay’s eighth home game was played in London.

The Bucs went 4-12, losing seven games by at least two touchdowns. Schiano has come in to right the ship, and the organization has lowered ticket prices to try to win back some fans. When a franchise is trying to win back fans, it needs publicity. Is this whole thing with Eric LeGrand about being a classy organization, or is managament using the signing as a publicity stunt as it tries to rebuild its fan base?

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. I agreed, at first. But then I thought, wouldn’t a classy move have been to sign him to a contract for three years for say, $1 million, to help the LeGrand 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 motivated purely by class. In a time when the team desperately needs fans to come into its building, management looking for anything it can do to get public attention. And taking advantage of a kid who suffered a career ending injury, for free, in order to bring itself attention is not a classy move. It’s disgusting, and the Buccaneer brass should be ashamed that the symbolic gesture doesn’t include financial compensation.

I have seen and heard many interviews that Legrand has done over the last six 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. He deserves better.

Ray Blanchette


Eric LeGrand dreamed of playing in the National Football League. The spinal cord injury he suffered in October 2010 denied him the his goal of lining up between the lines on a Sunday afternoon. But thanks to Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LeGrand can retire a former NFL’er.

Schiano’s gesture dispels some of the cynicism we have toward top level college football programs and their coaches. Schiano may have left RU physically, a program that owes its success largely to his efforts, but he didn’t leave Piscataway spiritually. The bond formed between player and coach manifested with LeGrand’s signing last month.

Reaching the NFL is the culmination of a football player’s hard work and determination. There have been athletes with all the physical tools who failed either to make the league, or reach their potential because of attitude.

LeGrand has a champion’s attitude and determination. If only we could all have his fortitude, our society would benefit tremendously. And never has there been a will more deserving of an NFL contract. There are have some equally deserving, but none more.

Ultimately, the NFL is a business, and business is cold. Business is founded on money, and in this industry, money comes from wins. Wins come from players contributing, something LeGrand unfortunately cannot do on the field. Thus, he will retire to allow Schiano to fill the roster spot.

Don’t be surprised if the former Scarlet Knight has a role with the Buccaneers in some capacity after his retirement. Though he could no longer take the field after his injury at RU, he still contributed. He led the team on the field and was present on the sidelines. He provided color commentary on Scarlet Knight broadcasts.

His signing also leaves behind a tangible legacy of his reaching a dream. Nike commissioned LeGrand replica jerseys, with the sales going to the charity that bears LeGrand’s name. The jersey sales continue a concept started at RU. bELieve 52 t-shirts were sold at the Rutgers University bookstore, generating funds for the Eric LeGrand Foundation to aid those with spinal cord injuries.

We lament the state of sports, but LeGrand is embodiment that the naive notion an athlete can be a role model is still true.

Kyle Kensing