Lattimore staying positive, just happy to be at NFL Combine

Lattimore staying positive, just happy to be at NFL Combine
February 22, 2013, 4:45 pm
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- The Patriots probably don't need another running back.

With Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Demps, and a possible extension for Danny Woodhead, the stable appears full. But consider this: Tom Brady threw the most passes of his career (637) in 2012. Brady isn't an NFL grandfather yet, but at 35, it wouldn't hurt to lighten his workload -- especially considering the incredible number of offensive plays the Patriots are running.

New England can make its resurgent ground game even more of a priority. The failure to pick up third-and-short hurt them badly in the AFC Championship game. Hard-nosed defenses like Baltimore don't fall for gimmicks, they run their game no matter how opponents line up. If the Patriots can find a stud -- maybe even for next season -- who will keep tough D's off-balance, not fumble, and upgrade the run game, then the pick could make sense.

Consider Marcus Lattimore.

The South Carolina running back hyperextended his right knee in an October game against Tennessee last season. Lattimore had suffered an ACL tear in the opposite year in 2011, but this time, his agony appeared primal.

With good reason. The knee had to be rebuilt completely, with orthopedist James Andrews and his team tasked with repairing the ACL, LCL, and PCL.

Lattimore's draft stock plummeted as he was carted off the field. The once-considered top-10 pick is now, at the NFL scouting combine, a medical case. He knows it, too.

"It's a blessing to be here, no doubt," the back said Friday. "I will not take this opportunity for granted. I just think of guys who are less fortunate than me, guys who would kill to be in my shoes, even with the injury. That's what keeps me going, that's what keeps me motivated."

Two long, jagged scars marred his podium appearance. Eyes sought the marks out as the athlete took his place. Just as Lattimore is finding in team interviews, focus is almost entirely on the injury.

"You just have to keep working hard and keep going."

Despite excellent rehabilitation progress, there's no guarantee Lattimore will play his rookie year. He could fall to where the Patriots sit at No. 29 or he could fall even further.

Not a bad deal for a team that probably doesn't need another back right now. And the idea that Lattimore could be drafted later in the weekend and still end up with a contender is not unattractive. New England certainly has no shame in looking to the future.

"At this point it really doesn't matter where I get drafted," he said. "I'm going to go in there and work hard, I'm going to do what I do and do what I've been doing my whole career, just being myself."