The middle of the offseason makes the mind wander, and in blogland that in turn leads to projections as we attempt to forecast the upcoming season. We quantify every bit of minutiae to predict future performance, and in doing so we start debates in which we question whether or not Mark Sanchez can become Eli Manning.

But some things can’t be quantified, or fit into a category. Today’s example: Eric LeGrand’s impact on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their fan base.

The former Rutgers defensive tackle fractured two vertebrae and was paralyzed from his neck down after a collision during a game against Army in October of 2010. The initial outlook for his recovery was that there would be no recovery, and he’d live life as a quadriplegic who’d have to breathe through the help of a ventilator. Five weeks later he was breathing normally, and now he can stand up with the help of a mental frame, sit up without assistance for up to 15 minutes, and make walking or pedaling movements with mechanical or human aid.

Calling his story merely inspirational feels disrespectful. It’s the kind of story that makes your problems melt away, and seem mundane and unimportant. New Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was also LeGrand’s coach at Rutgers, and as a gesture to their continued connection he brought his former defensive lineman to Tampa, signing LeGrand to a contract.

Today he spoke to his teammates, and quickly gave perspective to their aches and struggles.

From the Tampa Bay Tribune:

Fighting through adversity and remaining mentally strong no matter the circumstances were the key notes in LeGrand’s address to the team, which opened defensive tackle Gerald McCoy’s eyes as well.

“We always complain about a bunch of nothing and for a guy to have the sport he loves taken away from him completely and be as happy as he’s ever been, what can we really complain about?” McCoy said.

“If you’ve never found any type of motivation before, listening to him talk is definitely a confidence and motivational builder because he’s a strong-willed guy. He’s just a great person.”

During a press conference LeGrand said he told his teammates to appreciate the opportunity they have, and how lucky they are to be playing professional football.

“I want them to really appreciate everything they have. They are living a dream. I don’t want them to ever take anything for granted.”

The Bucs announced that LeGrand’s jersey will go on sale at the team shop, and all proceeds will go to the Eric LeGrand Foundation, which is dedicated to the research of spinal cord injuries.

It’ll be pretty cool seeing LeGrand’s name walking into Raymond James Stadium again and again…

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