Special teams the ticket for Vereen

November, 26, 2011
11/26/11
5:00
PM ET
When it comes to personnel decisions on the 46-man game-day roster, special teams considerations are often a big factor for coach Bill Belichick. That’s why what unfolded Monday night against the Chiefs – rookie Shane Vereen getting the nod over veteran Kevin Faulk – was notable.

Vereen played on the kickoff coverage, kickoff return and punt return units. It was the most he’s played on special teams this season, and reflects his improvement in that area.

Faulk’s primary special teams contributions come in the punt return game, where the Patriots have turned things over to Julian Edelman. So in this case, Vereen’s ability to contribute as a coverage player and blocker made him more valuable to the coaching staff.

Special teams, it turns out, is a new venture for the rookie from Cal.

“I did it in practice [in college], but my background was limited,” said Vereen, who like many top college players, starred on offense and wasn’t as big a part of the kicking game. “I’ve been working at it all year, learning a lot, and I feel comfortable.”

Vereen’s speed is an asset on special teams, and he says he’s happy to help out the team in any way. He believes the best special teams player is one who goes all-out and executes the game-plan.

As for his quiet rookie season – in which he was slowed early by a hamstring injury and has played in four games with 13 total offensive snaps -- he sums it up this way: “Not too high, never too low, just keep learning and keep progressing.”

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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