|Has Shane Vereen turned a corner?||10.23.12 at 1:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s been a long journey back for Shane Vereen.
The second-year running back out of Cal had a lost season in 2011 — unable to get into the system early because of the lockout, he struggled with injury and his spot on the depth chart. As a result, he fell short of the expectations that were placed on a second-round pick, and finished his rookie year with 57 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown.
But the 23-year-old may have turned the corner on Sunday against the Jets. Working as a regular part of New England’s running back rotation for the first time in his career, he got the start, and had the first three touches for the New England offense on the afternoon. He ended up with a career-high 49 rushing yards on eight carries, and added one catch for 10 yards in New England’s 29-26 win over the Jets.
“I have to get a lot better,” he said Tuesday when asked what he took away from his performance against New York. “I did some good things, but all in all, there’s a lot of things I need to correct, and I need to get better at.”
“Shane’s a smart kid, he has a good understanding of the game,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “He’s an elusive guy — he’s got good balance, plenty of strength for his size. [He’s] not the biggest guy, but [there’s] plenty of strength; he gives us some versatility there. I think he’s able to run inside, run in some traffic, but he’s a good space player, on the edge and in the passing game.
“When he’s had an opportunity to play — unfortunately, he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities over the last year and a half — but the one’s he’s had have been fairly positive. Not that I hope anything happens to anybody else, but hopefully he’ll get more opportunities, because I think he can contribute for us. He’s done a good job when he’s had a chance, he just hasn’t a lot of opportunities.”
Vereen has spent a lot of time being as patient as possible while waiting for his opportunity, and said it’s occasionally been a struggle trying to stay mentally engaged with what’s going on when you’re dogged by injuries.
“When you’re faced with an injury like that, you’re kind of removed — you’re not out there all the time. So in order to stay engaged with what’s going on, you do have to stay mentally involved with the team,” he said. “Obviously, it’s been something I’ve struggled with, but hopefully, I’ll be able to put it behind me and be able to move forward.”
One thing that’s helped is the support of his fellow running backs, as well as veteran running backs coach Ivan Fears. Vereen said before practice on Tuesday that he “loves the running back room, and added that “It’s a fun atmosphere to be in.”
“Without that support, the transition isn’t as easy, sitting out isn’t as easy; but they’re all very supportive and they helped me get back to where I need to be,” he said. “[Fears] has helped me a lot. He’s a good coach — he’s kept my head in the game and the game plan, throughout all the injuries.”
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