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Running back Shane Vereen seeking more consistency in 2013

05.14.13 at 5:55 pm ET

FOXBORO — Exit Danny Woodhead, enter Shane Vereen.

In the wake of Woodhead’s decision to sign a free-agent deal with the Chargers this offseason, the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Vereen figures to take over the role of Patriots’ third-down back in 2013 on a full-time basis.

The Cal product, who got a small taste of the workload last season, flashed positively at times throughout the season, including a three- touchdown performance in the divisional playoff round against the Texans.

“What I learned from that [game] is that I can do it, confidence wise,” said Vereen, who had two receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in the win. “It helps, but it’s a new season. Anything can happen. You’re starting from ground zero.”

Vereen, who finished the 2012 season with 62 carries for 251 yards and three touchdowns and eight catches for 149 yards and one touchdown, knows that it’s one thing to perform at a high level for a game here or there. It’s another thing to do it on a consistent basis, something that’s eluded the 24-year-old over his first two seasons in the league for a couple reasons: One, Woodhead was ahead of him on the depth chart, and his durability and skills allowed him to get the bulk of the snaps as the primary third-down option out of the backfield.

“It’s going to be hard to replace a guy like Woody,” Vereen said of Woodhead, who in 2012 became the first New England running back to finish a season with at least 40 catches and 40 carries since Kevin Faulk did it in 2008. “He had a lot of experience. He had a lot of knowledge. He’s a smart player. His role was pretty key to the team. I learned a lot from him. You can’t really replace him. All you can do is move on and hope to get better from there.”

And two, Vereen struggled with injury at times over his first two seasons, including hamstring and foot issues.

“Injuries are never good — it’s always frustrating,” he said. “You want to be out there as much as possible, so when I’m not, it’s disheartening. But I’m out there now, and I’m trying to stay as healthy as possible.”

Now, this Golden Bear realizes he has a golden opportunity. As a result, he’s sharpened his focus, saying that he’s approaching the 2013 season “a little bit differently than I did last season” when it comes to his role on the team.

“There’s a little more focus on my part. There has to be,” he said. “[I need to] just be more consistent. More reliable. That comes with practice and that comes with time, so hopefully we’ll get there,” he said Tuesday in between workouts at Gillette Stadium.”

“I was ready to play, probably last week,” he added. “Just getting back and getting the itch for it. You kind of miss it now that we’ve been out a couple of months. It’s coming. It’ll be here faster than we realize. The itch is back.”

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