FOXBORO, Mass. — Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will always be connected, whether they like it or not — but, don’t worry, they do.
The Patriots chose Vereen (second round) and Ridley (third round) with back-to-back picks in the 2011 NFL draft, immediately connecting the running backs in Patriots draft lore. That connection hasn’t pitted them against one another, though, instead it’s proven to be the spark of a great friendship between the two. Such good friends, in fact, that they bought houses right next to one another.
“Definitely. We’re as close as you can possibly be — he’s my next door neighbor,” Vereen said during a break in offseason workouts at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. “We’re as close as you can possibly be. We hang out every day. In the offseason, I’ve visited him and talked to him every now and then. We’re still learning together. We still have a long way to go. A lot more to learn.”
Vereen, 24, has plenty more to learn, too, especially after missing most of his rookie season and parts of 2012 with a lingering hamstring injury. While he continues to thirst for a better understanding of the Patriots’ system, he doesn’t believe his injuries have set him back at all.
“I’m more of a visual learner, so I learn a lot by seeing it on the field, but it’s just as important as watching it on film or in the classroom in the notebook,” Vereen said. “I’ve been to plenty of practices, seen and taken a lot of mental reps as well as physical reps. I don’t think it’s much of an issue anymore.”
Having Ridley alongside helps, too. While the two remain great friends, they also serve as great motivation for one another, constantly pushing each other to be the best they can be.
“And I think that’s what’s going to make us better,” Vereen added. “We push each other, especially in the weight room. On the field. Running, pushing each other. I think it’s going to make us both better.”
The duo are now entering their third season with the Patriots and, with Ridley having taken on the feature back role already in 2012, Vereen hopes to establish himself as a major contributor this season. And if he ever needs any extra motivation to do so, he’ll know just where to find it.