Crable paused, laughed for a second and simply answered, "I don’t know."
The Patriots used a third-round pick on the Michigan product in 2008, and the outside linebacker was supposed to bolster New England's pass rush, which was dying in 2008 and dead in 2009. But due to Crable's series of injuries, he's been one of the Patriots' biggest draft disappointments of the Bill Belichick era.
"It's a frustrating process," Crable said. "When your mind is saying you can do something and your body is not reacting to it, it's a frustrating deal. But I got in the training room this year, worked with [Patriots strength and conditioning coach] Mike [Wojcik] and them, focused on my body, keeping me healthy so I can get out there and perform this year."
Crable, who is physically imposing at 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds, registered 16 sacks in college, so the talent figures to be there. Yet, after missing every single game of his two-year career with the Pats, expectations for Crable are at an all-time low, and he understands that.
On a positive note, Crable hasn’t suffered any debilitating injuries — like a badly-torn knee, or a broken hip, for instance — so he shouldn’t have lost his ability to blow through the offensive line. It will be tough for him to earn a roster spot in 2010, but if he can prove that he can be an asset as a pass rusher, Belichick will find him a spot.
Crable's rookie season ended with a shin injury, and his 2009 campaign was washed out with a groin issue. He's been working out at Gillette Stadium during the offseason, and he was in attendance for last week's string of voluntary organized team activities.
"It feels good to be out there, get mental reps, taking your mind through the calls and stuff like that," Crable said. "I'm glad to be out there working with the guys and stuff like that instead of watching. I'm happy to be out there."
As frustrating as he said the last two seasons have been, Crable felt blessed to even get a third chance with the Patriots. Sure, the organization invested a lot in him with that third-round pick, so it's probably smart to let him hang around to see what he's got.
But Crable also knows the Patriots could have cut their losses after last season. Because they didn’t, though, it's probably a good indication that Belichick sees something he can work with. At this point, Crable is more than happy with that notion.
"I have a job," Crable said. "I could be at home. I do feel like I'm blessed. Now I feel like it's my turn to get out there and show what I can do."
The Patriots have gotten considerably younger at linebacker over the last two years with the additions of Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton and the subtractions of Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas and Rosevelt Colvin. There's even more excitement after New England drafted Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham, as well as with the return of Tyrone McKenzie.
Crable, at this point, has been relatively forgotten among the youth movement. It's up to him to make sure he's gotten past two years of frustration and can validate his third-round status on the field.
"Every day, you wonder what's going on," Crable said. "You doubt yourself then you start getting confident. You take a couple steps forward then you take a couple steps back. You've just got to start with the end in mind, keep progressing. I had a lot of people talking to me telling me it'll be all right if we just keep working at it. I feel like we're getting there."