Vereen headed in 'right direction'

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
10:30
AM ET
Elsa/Getty ImagesRookie RB Shane Vereen at work in the preseason.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After sharing the “football journey” of rookie running back Stevan Ridley earlier this morning, let’s also catch up with the team’s other rookie back, Shane Vereen.

The second-round draft choice out of Cal spent a few moments in the locker room this week detailing the start of his NFL career, which has been quiet. Vereen has played in just two games and hasn’t taken an offensive snap, his time on the field coming on the punt return and kickoff return units.

The 56th overall pick in the draft is not discouraged.

“The progression has been going well. I have a lot to learn, all the rookies do,” Vereen said. “I’m just coming in each day and trying to get better with everything that they put in front of me.”

Injuries haven’t helped, as Vereen missed weeks in training camp with a strained hamstring. He played in the preseason finale, turning in an up-and-down performance.

“I think it hurt me as far as experience is concerned,” Vereen said when asked how much the injury set him back. “We already had [limited] experience coming in as a rookie, and then not being able to practice through camp and all that stuff, it’s less experience that I had. I think that experience is getting there.”

One of the more significant challenges for a younger running back is pass protection, and the Patriots ask a lot of their backs in that area.

Asked how much closer he is to breaking through, Vereen said, “I wish I knew. But I know it’s getting there and I’m getting better each and every day.”

That’s the way Bill Belichick also views it. He called Vereen a “smart guy” who “works hard.”

“He’s been able to participate now for several weeks here and he’s been able to make some improvement, string some practices and reps together, both on the scout team and running some plays on our offense,” Belichick said. “He’s getting better every week. I think he’s definitely headed in the right direction.”

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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