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Sebastian Vollmer taking it ‘step by step’ in his return to the field 06.12.14 at 10:01 pm ET
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Sebastian Vollmer is carted off the field after breaking his leg last October. (AP)

Sebastian Vollmer is carted off the field after breaking his leg last October. (AP)

FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer is ready to put 2013 behind him. As a matter of fact, he admitted Thursday he’d rather not think about how it ended at all.

Who could blame him?

Anyone watching the Patriots and Dolphins on Oct. 27, 2013 on TV certainly will never forget how his season ended. The Patriots right tackle was moving outside to run block for Stevan Ridley when Dolphins nose tackle Randy Starks rolled up on his right leg. Sideline microphones picked up the yells of the 6-foot-8, 320-pound beast of a lineman who had just suffered a gruesome broken leg.

During Thursday’s OTAs, Vollmer returned and was moving freely with the first team offensive line, looking like a man ready to put the past in the past and leave it there. He even joked about being yelled at by coaches, a sign that he was indeed back and ready to put on the pads next week in mini-camp.

Whether he’ll be ready to take on the full load of a full training camp and be ready for the season opener against Starks and the Dolphins in Miami on Sept. 7 is another matter. And he’s more than ready to accept the reality of that deliberate pace.

“Let’€™s take it day by day,” Vollmer cautioned. “You work on some stuff every day in the training room, the rehab room, you know, on the field. You’€™re always working on something so you’€™re never there.

“Anytime you get hurt it’€™s not a good thing. You don’€™t really know what’€™s happening to yourself and take it step by step. You take it inside, talk to doctors and do what’€™s necessary and just work your way. It’€™s a strain. Every day you do rehab, you get better, you get stronger and all that stuff, looking forward. I’€™m back out here now and it’€™s a good moment for me.”

Vollmer felt from the moment he began to recover from surgery and begin his rehab program that he would be back on the field this summer, all along never doubting himself.

“No. I don’€™t think you should have that,” Vollmer said of skepticism and worry. “I trust our medical staff and rehab guys and we know we’€™re in good hands. You just have to do what they tell you to do. You have to work hard and I think that’€™s kind of what it comes down to.”

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Read More: Broken leg, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl
Tiki Barber on MFB: Stevan Ridley ‘has every opportunity to be one of the greats’ at 3:11 pm ET
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Former Giants running back and current CBS Sports Radio host Tiki Barber joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the fumbling issues of Stevan Ridley and Jets rookie Calvin Pryor‘€™s comments about the Patriots. To listen to the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.

Ridley has been one of the most productive running backs in the league over the last two seasons, rushing for 2,036 yards and 19 touchdowns in 30 games. However, Ridley has been plagued with fumbling issues, losing the ball eight times over the same 30-game stretch.

Barber stated that working on mechanics and strategy over the offseason will help Ridley solve the problem that put him in Bill Belichick‘€™s doghouse for most of last year.

“€œThis is what worked for me: It was showing a concerted effort in the offseason to correct whatever the problem is, and his problem is unfortunately the same one that I had — an inconsistency of holding onto the ball,”€ Barber said, adding: “The way you get out of people’€™s doghouses is to show a concerted effort to fixing the problem and then executing it day in and day out when people aren’t watching.

“The only way that the fans and media are going to care and let this go is if when the games start happening, when preseasons starts happening, it doesn’t become an issue at all.”

Barber continued: “I’ve always said this about sports. It’€™s train, train, train … so that when you get into the moment, you don’€™t have to think about it and you can just trust. So for Stevan and for any guys that are having issues with ball security, it’€™s about mechanically changing your mind in the offseason when there’€™s no pressure to do it, because when you try to do it at the moment of game day … there’€™s no chance. You have to train yourself when there is no pressure, so that when there is pressure, you don’€™t think about it.”

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Read More: Giants, Patriots, Stevan Ridley, Tiki Barber
As far as veterans are concerned, rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo making the grade 06.09.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo was taken in the second round out of Eastern Illinois. (AP)

Jimmy Garoppolo was taken in the second round out of Eastern Illinois. (AP)

FOXBORO — It’s only been a handful of OTA sessions, but to this point, the Patriots veterans have been impressed with the work of rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The consensus seems to be that he’s not only delivering the goods on the practice field — albeit in limited snaps behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett — but he’s fully aware of his place in the locker room hierarchy as a rookie.

“I’ll tell you, he shocked me, man,” running back Stevan Ridley said after last Thursday’s workout. “He came in [and] he seems confident. He is a rookie, though. Everybody’s going to make mistakes, but he’s quiet, and he has been working hard.

“I didn’€™t know too much about him, but as I watched him, I liked him the more I watched him,” Ridley added. “He’€™s what we expect out of a quarterback. You don’€™t say too much — you just take it in and do your job.’€

In last Thursday’s practice session, the first action for Garoppolo in full view of the media, there were some good throws and some bad throws, including an interception on a ball picked off by linebacker Chris White. All in all, a rookie performance in the rain that was probably about par for the course for a young quarterback at this time of the offseason.

Garoppolo wasn’t made available to the media after the session, but some of the other offensive veterans acknowledged they have been impressed with the rookie, who has managed to emerge as an early leader among the first year players.

“The guy is pretty good — he’s got a lot of talent,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “He’s a rookie, so he has a lot to learn. But he has a lot of potential. If he continues to work, he’ll be a good quarterback in this league.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola had the chance to work out briefly with Garoppolo prior to the draft, and said that the rookie out of Eastern Illinois has impressed him as a “smart” player.

“He’s a smart player,” Amendola added. “I don’t know if they ran the same offense in college, but he’s picked up the system really well. I know he’s been putting in his time and his work getting in the books. He’s been doing good so far.”

In addition, Amendola added that Garoppolo has shown a nice command of the huddle, at least to this point.

“That’s huge. It’s one thing to throw the ball and make the plays on your feet. But to actually control 10 other guys and get them to where they need to be is a huge part of playing the quarterback position. He’s learning from the best [in] Tom and Mallett. He’s doing well.”

Read More: Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett
With LeGarrette Blount gone, do Patriots need to add backfield depth? 03.28.14 at 9:30 pm ET
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Expect Stevan Ridley's workload to increase in 2014. (AP)

Expect Stevan Ridley’s workload to increase in 2014. (AP)

The departure of LeGarrette Blount to the Steelers means there will be more on the plate of Stevan Ridley in 2014, who now appears likely to return to his role as the closest thing the New England offense has to a featured back. Meanwhile, Shane Vereen figures to work in a change up role as the third down option and pass catcher out of the backfield, and Brandon Bolden will stick in his role as all-purpose backup.

But is there a need to bring in another body for depth? While running back isn’t considered an overwhelming priority for the Patriots (there are other greater areas of need, at least at this stage of the team-building process), it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to address it with a mid-round pickup in the draft, especially considering the fact that the bargain basement has been pretty much picked over, at least at this point. (The best options right now are probably Andre Brown, Michael Bush and Justin Forsett, as well as broken-down editions of Felix Jones, Ronnie Brown and Willis McGahee.)

With the understanding that the Patriots would be targeting a guy like that no earlier than the third day of the draft because of other areas of greater need, here are three backs who might be available to the Patriots this year as mid- to late-round possibilities:

a) Storm Johnson, Central Florida – A multidimensional back who has already drawn the attention of the Patriots — the 6-foot, 209-pounder was one of a handful of players who went through a workout for the Patriots’ brain trust when they were in Florida this past week for the league meetings — last season he had 1,139 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 30 catches for 260 yards and three receiving touchdowns.

b) Andre Williams, Boston College Remarkably, the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder led the nation in rushing last year for the Eagles, ending up with 2,177 rushing yards and becoming a Heisman finalist as a result. At the combine, he fully acknowledged the fact that he needs to improve when it comes to his work in pass protection as well as a receiver out of the backfield, but his colossal yardage total from last year will almost certainly make him attractive to someone.

c) Bishop Sankey, Washington – A little on the smaller side, like Johnson, this 5-foot-9, 209-pounder offers value in the passing game as well as the running game. Last season, he ran for 1,870 yards for a 5.7 average and 20 touchdowns to go along with 28 catches for 304 yards and one touchdown.

Of course, this doesn’t begin to take into account what the Patriots do at the kick return spot in 2014. Blount’s departure could open the door for any number of possibilities on special teams, including Josh Boyce, Devin McCourty or collegian Jeremy Gallon, who had a private workout for New England special teams coach Scotty O’Brien earlier this week in Ann Arbor. While the different looks that the three backs present should be enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes in 2014, it’s clear the Patriots do need to address the position going forward, especially considering the fact that Vereen and Ridley are heading into the final year of their rookie deals. Certainly a spot to watch going forward this offseason for New England.

Read More: Andre Williams, Bishop Sankey, Brandon Bolden, Devin McCourty
Stevan Ridley: Darrelle Revis ‘can lock down one side of the field for us’ 03.13.14 at 1:37 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley

Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was on NFL AM on the “NFL Network” Thursday morning, and talked about the departure of Aqib Talib, the acquisition of Darrelle Revis, as well as his own future.

On how much better cornerback Darrelle Revis makes the Patriots: “€œI think he does what [Aqib] Talib did for us. Talib is an awesome player and to let him go for the betterment of him and his family, he had a big offer on the table. He had to take it. But coach [Bill] Belichick always comes through, he always has a backup plan and to pick up Darrelle Revis, that was one of the only corners I heard about coming up as a kid and watching football. He’€™s been around a long time and he knows what he’€™s doing. I think he can lock down one side of the field for us and do everything that we need him to do as a player. So to come in on a one-year deal, he’€™s going to have to earn it but I think he’€™s done that year after year. We’€™re going to be OK.”

On if he expects a rematch of the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Broncos with all of the free agent moves Denver has made so far: “€œI can’€™t get too far ahead of myself. It’€™s going to take some work to get there but of course Denver is making major moves; they’€™ve signed some big names and made some great additions to their team, with Talib first. But for us, we’€™re going to have to play to get there. Once we get there, we know what we’€™re matched up against. They had a spectacular defense at the end of the year last year and they didn’€™t make any mistakes by picking up a few free agents to add to their dominance that helped them get to the Super Bowl.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley
BC’s Andre Williams would welcome chance to join Patriots 02.22.14 at 9:24 am ET
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Andre Williams ran for 2,177 yards this past year for BC. (AP)

Andre Williams ran for 2,177 yards this past year for BC. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots aren’€™t likely to be in the market for a running back this year, and if they are, it’€™s unlikely they’€™d go after someone in the first two days of the draft.

With a stable of backs like Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden — and that doesn’€™t begin to take into account whether or not free agent LeGarrette Blount would return — the one offensive skill position area you’€™d think New England would feel pretty good about in 2014.

But that doesn’€™t necessarily stop Boston College running back Andre Williams from speculating about what it might be like to stay in the New England area. Williams, who led the nation in rushing with 2,177 yards and was a Heisman finalist, sounds like he’€™d welcome a chance to stick around the area for as long as he could.

If Blount walks in free agency — and Williams drops in the draft — chances are he might get his wish.

“€œIt would be a blessing to end up on the Patriots squad,”€ said the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder Friday at the combine. “They’€™re a winning franchise. They have a great coach. He seems like a really levelheaded cool guy to deal with. It would be great to go back to the Northeast. That’€™s where my family is situated right now. It would be a great fit.”

Williams, who is current projected as a second-day pick who could end up dropping to the third day of the draft depending on how things shake out, made his bones in a run-first offense at Boston College, one that was tailored to fit his strengths. Even though he was one of the best backs in college football last season, when he reaches the NFL, he knows that he’€™ll have to tweak his game.

“€œI think my game is going to have to evolve,” he acknowledged. “œI think I’€™m going to be called upon to catch the ball more, pass protect more, know what’€™s going on, on defense more. Make reads on fronts and coverages faster than before. That’€™s part of becoming a professional from the amateur level. Upping your level of preparation.

“€œI think my pass protection is solid. This year there was a lot of play-action built in to our game plan. But we did have some drop-back pass. And in past years, the offense was different. I was relied more on pass protection. I think it’€™s pretty solid.”

Williams, who has meetings scheduled with the Bills, Ravens, Jaguars and Bengals, went through some coaching upheaval while at BC, as the Eagles went from Frank Spaziani to Steve Addazio. While the changes led to some struggles, he said it also helped draw the guys on the roster closer.

“I would say my time at BC was…a journey,” said Williams. “There was a lot going on from year to year, different coaching changes and what not. But I think there was a real stability in the team itself. I really enjoyed being around my teammates. I really enjoyed Chestnut HIll and the Boston area. There’€™s a lot of great people a lot of great influences around me at BC. I really enjoyed my time there.”

Read More: 2014 combine, Andre Williams, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount
Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Running back 01.30.14 at 5:40 pm ET
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LeGarrette Blount had 772 rushing yards over the course of the 2013 regular season, second-best on the team. (AP)

LeGarrette Blount had 772 rushing yards over the course of the 2013 regular season, second-best on the team. (AP)

With the Patriots done for the year, we’€™ve got an end of the year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams, wide receivers and tight ends. Now, it’€™s the running backs.

Depth chart: Stevan Ridley (178 carries, 773 rushing yards, 4.3 YPC, 7 TDs), LeGarrette Blount (153 carries, 772 rushing yards, 5 YPC, 7 TDs), Shane Vereen (44 carries, 208 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC, 1 rushing TD; 47 catches, 427 receiving yards, 3 TDs), Brandon Bolden (55 carries, 271 rushing yards, 4.9 YPC, 3 TDs; 21 catches, 152 receiving yards), fullback James Develin (4 carries, 10 rushing yards, 2.5 YPC, 1 TD).

Overview: This was a fascinating group to watch over the course of the year. The season started with Ridley as the lead back, but that didn’€™t last a full half before he was benched in the opener against Buffalo in favor of Vereen because of a fumble. Vereen then assumed the lead role — until it was revealed at the end of the Bills game that he suffered a wrist injury and would go on IR-DFR. The Patriots turned back to Ridley, who continued to have ball security issues over the course of the season, so much so that he was benched for a game against the Texans.

But as the season went on, Blount began to emerge as a powerful force, while Vereen and Ridley became complementary parts of the running game. While the running game stalled out in the AFC title contest, the stretch drive effort of Blount — 431 yards in a three-game stretch (two at the end of the regular season and one playoff game) — provided a tremendous lift for the New England offense at a time when it needed it most.

(While the three lead backs got most of the ink, it’€™s important to note that Bolden and Develin also provided a boost, Bolden with some much needed depth protection — particularly in spot duty when Vereen was on the shelf — while Develin and his neck roll were able to do a tremendous job clearing the way for the rest of the backs. Prior to the 2013 season, the Patriots hadn’€™t employed a full-time fullback since Heath Evans in 2008, but Develin’€™s work and dependability likely mean he’€™ll be back again in 2014.)

It remains to be seen what this group will look like in 2014. Can Vereen emerge as a healthy and consistent offensive threat? Can Ridley get over whatever ball security issues dogged him over the course of the 2013 campaign and return to full-time, lead-back status? And how deep will the Patriots reach into their own pockets to bring back Blount, who will hit the free agent market as one of the most intriguing prospects on the radar screen? Regardless, figure on the running back position to be one of the strengths of the offense heading into the 2014 season.
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Read More: Brandon Bolden, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, position-by-position breakdown
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