If there was any doubt that Leonte Carroo would be welcomed back with open arms by his teammates after a second off-field incident in a three-week period resulted in a suspension from the team, it was answered by the way the Rutgers co-captain was greeted when he returned to the locker room.
“What made me the most happy was the comfort from my teammates,” Carroo said Thursday, speaking for the first time since serving what amounted to 25-day suspension due to the legal charges that were dropped earlier this week.
“As soon as I got back in the locker room they were going crazy, they were happy, showing me nothing but support out here on the field today, making sure I lined up correctly and little things like that. It was just a blessing to be back out here and just to be back out here with them.”
Still, there is a question of how Carroo — who was selected as one of four captains based on a team-wide vote in August — will go about leading after a pair of incidents led to team-imposed disciplinary measures.
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“The biggest thing for me is to make sure my teammates know what type of guy I am,” Carroo said, when asked how he plans to go about leading the team going forward. “They already know, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t in there ear every day I was out. I was watching practice, I was texting the receivers, coaching them up, I was motivating guys before the game, calls at night while they were in the hotel, talking to them nonstop.
“So even though I wasn’t here physically they still heard me every single day.”
In the last week of training camp, Carroo was among five players suspended for the first half of the season opener against Norfolk State as a result of a curfew violation. Carroo called it a “dumb decision,” took ownership of the penalty by saying he got “exactly what (he) deserved,” and said he would take “full responsibility … being a captain and a leader of this team” to “go out there and do my best to make sure this team is still disciplined.”
A day after the Scarlet Knights’ Week 2 loss to Washington State, Carroo was suspended by head coach Kyle Flood as a result of an altercation outside the football team’s headquarters. Carroo was arrested by the Rutgers University Police Department and charged with simple assault under domestic violence for allegedly slamming a woman to the ground outside of the Hale Center.
The charge and a restraining order against Carroo were dismissed in separate court hearings on Tuesday when the alleged victim said she did not wish to pursue the case.
Flood — who is currently serving his own suspension stemming from a violation of a university compliance policy — reinstated Carroo on Wednesday after, according to a Rutgers athletics statement, “he accepted the responsibility that comes with his return to the team.”
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Carroo declined to address what those stipulations are, but said following practice Thursday that he’s “just happy to be back out here with my teammates and ready to go.”
The program’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns is eager to return to the field Saturday (8 p.m., BTN), when the Scarlet Knights host No. 4 Michigan State at High Point Solutions Stadium.
“I’ve very confident in his ability to lead,” Rutgers interim head coach Norries Wilson said. “He’s made some mistakes. He’s not perfect. And he’s stepped up and owned up to his mistakes. That’s behind him now and we’re going to go forward now and just take it day-by-day.”