Shane Vereen's return was one of few positives Patriots coaches had to talk about Tuesday morning.
The running back, in his first game since breaking a wrist September 8, caught a team-high eight passes for 65 yards in New England's Monday night loss to Carolina. He also added one rush for 7 yards.
"It was good to have him back," head coach Bill Belichick admitted. "He missed two months of football. I think he'll be better as we go forward. He definitely made some plays to help us in the game. But I think he'll improve and get better like any player will with more reps, more opportunities, good practice.
"It was definitely good to have him back out there. There's plenty of things for him to work on, but he's a diligent, hardworking kid that always gives you a solid effort."
Early assumptions Vereen would be eased back into the offense were blown up by the end of the night. The back played 34 of 72 offensive snaps, was targeted by Tom Brady more than any other pass catcher (11 times), and converted first downs on seven of his touches.
Not bad for a guy who hasn't played in 10 weeks.
"I thought Shane performed, in his role that we had him ready to handle last night, very well," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels allowed. "We weren't planning on having him go in there and play 60 snaps and we were going to use all the backs that were up last night and we did. I thought Shane really gave us a boost in some critical situations; made a few nice catch-and-runs on some screen plays, certainly impacted the game on third-down as well."
New England won 28 first downs against the stout Panthers defense and Vereen's versatility contributed in a big way. He was a threat whether lined up in the backfield or split out wide, and Carolina was forced into some tough choices.
Just one more option for Brady as the offense continues to gel.
"Shane's a good player," McDaniels said. "He certainly made some plays that helped us move the ball last night and it's good to have him back."