The re-signing of Leon Washington Saturday upped New England's running back count to six. Or that's what the roster reports, anyway. The real number is more like three.
Monday afternoon it was reported Shane Vereen broke a small bone in his wrist, needs surgery, and will miss time. James Develin? A fullback who spent all but four games on the practice squad in 2012. Brandon Bolden's status is uncertain thanks to a knee injury he sustained before the preseason finale.
That leaves Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, and Washington, who was brought back the day before Vereen's injury. Head coach Bill Belichick elaborated on the decision during Monday's conference call.
"He certainly is a guy that’s done a lot of things in his career. [He] did them for us in training camp and then the preseason games, returned kicks: played on the special teams, ran the ball, played on third down.
"He’s got some versatility and gives us depth in those areas that we feel is important. That’s why he’s here."
An NFL roster can be pretty fluid within the general confines of 53 active players and eight practice squad guys -- it has to be, to account for variables in health, performance, and anything in between. That's why depth is invaluable.
Take Sunday's season opener against Buffalo for example. Ridley was poised to prove he's worth of the lead back role, that he's overcome any fumbling issues, and could repeat last year's 1,000-plus yard rushing effort.
He got benched before halftime. For fumbling.
That's when Vereen got tapped to take over. The 5-10, 205-pound back finished with 14 carries for 101 yards. He also had 58 receiving yards off seven catches.
"Whether that’s his best role or whether it’s a complementary role, it might change from game to game, it might change during the course of the season, it might change from season to season based on the rest of your roster and what type of plays you’re running offensively," Belichick explained. "He has good versatility to play really on all four downs."
Now he's out.
Will the Patriots make do with the backs they've got? Maybe not. Belichick spoke of continued roster shuffling before the Vereen news even broke.
"You saw that there was a lot of roster movement last week. I think that that will probably continue to some degree with our team and I’m sure with many other teams in the league over the first couple weeks of the regular season as things get settled on the practice squad, on just the way your team is made up and so forth," he said.
"We’ll just have to see how all that goes."