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Maroney: A chip on his shoulder

05.31.09 at 7:41 pm ET
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Patriots Brady Football

Tom Brady hands hands off to running back Laurence Maroney (39) during an OTA last week. (AP)

FOXBOROUGH – Laurence Maroney knows full well many experts have given up on him. But those aren’t the people he needs to show he can still be a lead back for a Super Bowl contender.

Still only 24 — but with names like Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Sammy Morris populating a crowded backfield — Maroney knows that the time is now for him to prove to Patriots coaches and personnel evaluators that he can carry the load and over the course of a 16-game season and playoff grind.

After seasons of 745 and 835 yards in his first two years, Maroney played in just three games last season, carrying the ball 28 times for only 93 yards.

There were murmurs about whether Maroney wanted it bad enough in New England and could his days in Foxborough be numbered. But while Brady was holding court last Thursday during an OTA attended by more media than players, Maroney told reporters that he has never heard those negative rumblings from the football staff.

“They haven’t given any negative feedback. I haven’t heard anything about it. Ask Bill and tell me what he said,” Maroney said.

Told that Coach Belichick isn’t always forthcoming about his player conversations with the media, Maroney smiled and quipped, “I guess you’ll never find that answer.”

One answer the media did get was from Maroney himself on May 16 in Stoughton, Mass.

Two weeks ago, Maroney, while taking part in Kevin Faulk’s charity softball game, came out and said that he was playing the early part of last season with a broken bone in his right shoulder. He injured it against the Jets in Week 2 last season and sat out a week.

He tried to come back against San Francisco but was not effective and said after that game that he had “issues,” but couldn’t reveal anymore.

On Oct. 20, the Pats placed him on season-ending injured reserve and everyone was left to speculate what exactly was wrong with the running back who was a first-round draft pick (21st overall) in the 2006 Draft.

“A lot of things people remember and it’s just getting back out there and just getting back into the mix. We’re a little rusty so we just have to keep working at it day by day.”

And now he has one more veteran back to learn from, namely Fred Taylor, who signed as a free agent in the off-season.

“He’s definitely a great back I can learn a lot from,” Maroney said. “He’s been in the league 12 years now. He’s had a lot of 1,000-yard seasons and had a lot of great success. There’s a lot of things I can learn. I’m still young.

“I was definitely a fan of his and now just being able to play with him makes it that much better,” Maroney added.

Of course, there’s another leader Maroney will be paying attention to this summer. But Maroney said, the return of Tom Brady aside, he will still have plenty to prove.

“I think that’s what we do, whether No. 12 or whoever’s out there, challenge ourselves to get better and do better,” Maroney said. “If I’m back there, I’m trying to do the best. I’m not out there to just be out there.”

When Maroney entered the NFL in the 2006 season, he entered in the same class as DeAngelo Williams, the stud back out of Memphis who carried the ball 273 times in 2008 for 1,515 yards for Carolina. Maroney is hoping to catch some of that lightning in a bottle this season for the Patriots.

“Most definitely, that’s my guy,” Maroney said. “We came out the same year and I’m so proud of his success. He definitely did his thing last year and he’s definitely a great running back.”

If Maroney does in season four what Williams did in his third, that could make things very challenging for the Patriots next spring and very interesting for Maroney.

Asked if he’s given his future as a Patriot any thought, No. 39 still has visions of remaining in New England.

“Still here I hope, still playing for them,” Maroney said. “There’s no pressure. I know what I can do and what I can bring to a team. It’s just going out there and doing it.”

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