BOSTON -- An abbreviated offseason and a battle with injuries started running back Shane Vereen's career off in a different way than he and Patriots fans expected.
Drafted 56th overall in 2011, Vereen was advertised as a speedy back with the ability to do a number of different things from the backfield, including catch the football. But the Cal product was limited to just five games, 25 total offensive snaps, and 15 carries in 2011, an experience he described as “frustrating.”
But with labor peace in 2012, Vereen has benefited from something he didn't have last year -- a full offseason to work with teammates.
“To be back with everyone else, get back to playing football, I think it’s great,” he said.
Rather than using his free time to focus in on specific areas of his game, Vereen has set out to become a better player in every way this offseason.
“Every area possible. There hasn’t been an area that I haven’t had to work. Coming in, not really playing that much, I have to work on everything,” he said.
Just 17 picks after hearing his name called in the 2011 draft, the Patriots selected another running back, Stevan Ridley, who along with Vereen is expected to compete for the carries vacated by BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ departure to Cincinnati.
The competition has already begun according to Vereen, who said, “It’s going good… There’s always going to be a competition, that’s what makes everybody better, that’s going to make our team a lot better and the more competition the better.”
Beyond Ridley, Vereen will likely compete with the versatile Danny Woodhead and veteran offseason pick-up Joseph Addai.
Despite that fact, Vereen isn’t missing the opportunity to learn from the 29-year old Addai, who comes to New England after six years in Indianapolis where he contributed in a number of ways for the Colts.
“Joe’s a real good dude. He’s been around the league for a while, so you can learn stuff from him on the field as well as off the field,” Vereen said. “We’ve just reached the starting point of everything that I’m able to learn from him. I’ve only been around him for a couple weeks now. The more I’m around him, the more I’m sure the whole running back group will learn.”
Beyond a potential increased workload on the ground, Vereen may also become a factor as a pass-catcher in new coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense, as he has a history of production from his backs in the passing game.
Catching the football is an area he believes he can contribute, but he admits that he still has work to do.
“I think it’s a strength, but I still drop passes, so it’s obviously somewhat of a weakness as well. As much as I would like to do that, I still have to work on that a lot,” he said.