After being drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the
2011 draft, Vereen was expected to be an immediate impact player out of the
backfield. But injuries kept that expectation from ever becoming a reality
during his rookie season and even through the first six weeks of his second year —
a difficult beginning for a young player just trying to find his way in the
"Obviously, it's something
that I've struggled with, but hopefully, I'll be able to put it behind
me," Vereen said, according to The Boston Globe.
"It makes it a lot harder, because when you're faced with an injury or
something like that, you're kind of removed and not out there all the time. So
in order to stay engaged with what's going on, you have to stay mentally
involved with the team."
That mental toughness has seen Vereen finally overcome the dreaded
injury bug and work his way into the Patriots running back rotation last week
against the Jets, albeit partially due to rookie Brandon Bolden's lingering
With eight carries for 49 yards and a 10-yard reception in
his first NFL start, Vereen nearly matched his career totals of 17 carries and
58 yards to that point. Even more impressively, though, at long last he showed
off the versatility and speed that made him so appealing as a prospect.
"He's an elusive guy,"
Bill Belichick said of the second-year back. "He gives us some versatility
there, and I think he's able to run inside and run into some traffic, but he's
a good space player on the edge and in the passing game."
Belichick knows Vereen has faced a
bit of bad luck since entering the NFL, and that some players can escape out
from behind the misfortune. But even with the troubles, the coach still
believes in Vereen's ability to contribute for the Patriots this season and
into the future.
"I do think he can be productive, regardless of who else is
out there. He's a good player in his own right without waiting for somebody
else to get injured," Belichick said. "Unfortunately, he hasn't had a
lot of opportunities in the last year and a half, but the ones he's had have
been fairly positive.
"Not that I hope that anything
happens to anyone else, but hopefully he'll get more opportunities because I
think he can contribute for us."
Vereen's speed and pass-catching
ability out of the backfield — a skill starting back Stevan Ridley is still
developing — make him yet another dangerous weapon on an already loaded Patriots
Now, with Belichick's approval, Vereen may be in line for
even more time in the backfield, too. An expectation the 23-year-old tailback
can only hope comes to fruition.
"Every time I put the uniform on, you get real
excited," Vereen said, hoping for more opportunities to don the jersey.
"You get fired up and ready to play."
Coming off a big-time performance against New York and with
Bolden still recovering from his knee injury, Vereen should have another
opportunity to sport the Patriots' red and blue in London this weekend. It's an
opportunity he'll welcome with open arms.