FOXBORO -- You remember Brandon Bolden now, don't you.
A knee injury has kept the running back out of the regular season, and he played Sunday against Tampa as though trying to make up for lost time. Bolden was second in both the rushing and receiving categories, with three carries for 51 yards (17.0 yards per carry) and five catches on six targets for 49 yards.
"Just missing the first games, if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will," he said after New England's 23-3 win over the Buccaneers. "Missing the first two, not being out there, just sitting at home just like, 'God, I wish I was there' [was hard]. To actually be there was amazing."
He even took some pleasure in the pain Tampa's defense doled out.
"Good to get that lick again, like, dang I haven't been hit in a while," Bolden grinned. "To actually hit somebody, it's like 'Ha! I still got it.' It's still a great feeling."
The second-year back really only showed rust on one play, though it was a significant slip-up.
Brady had him targeted down the sideline on the third-and-3 situation in New England's second drive of the game. Inexplicably, Bolden quit on the go route halfway through and began jogging. By the time he realized Brady was looking his way, and starting sprinting, the Patriots punt team was ready to go.
"[Brady] told me to keep my head up, [but] me being hard-headed, I wasn't paying attention so that was totally my fault," he admitted.
Otherwise, Bolden was ready. He's been preparing, not just to return in his expected power back role, but to step into the shoes of Shane Vereen.
Vereen suffered a wrist injury during New England's Week 2 win over Buffalo. The consequent surgery landed him on injured reserve (designated to return) and left the Patriots without their first passing back option.
Bolden is about 15-pounds heavier than Vereen. But though he may not be built to catch passes out of the backfield, he's worked hard to make the most of any opportunities.
"Whether it's catching balls after practice or even before practice you just try to get as much done as possible. More you can do, the more valuable you are. I just try to expand the game as much as possible."
Best to prove his worth now, before Vereen returns. It's not every day New England's offense is generously spread (five pass catchers had 30-plus receiving yards and three running backs had 30-plus yards on the ground) over so many different targets. And Bolden has been victim to change; he got 30 combined carries in Weeks 4 and 5 last year, then never saw more than six in a game for the rest of the season.
The funny thing? He's not worried about it. Not now, anyway. Bolden is so happy to be back in the game, he doesn't care if he gets one carry or one hundred.
"I can speak for [LeGarrette] Blount and [Stevan] Ridley about this: If they call our name, they call our name. If they don't, they don't. But we're going to encourage that guy who does go in to go out there to and make the best effort he can."
New England certainly got Bolden's this Sunday.