FOXBORO -- Shane Vereen set a career-high for receiving in New England's win over Cleveland with 153 yards.
Hard to imagine not so long ago.
The running back started his third NFL season with a bang, rushing 14 times for 101 yards and catching 7 passes for another 58 against Buffalo. But the high expectations born early in the game were shelved before the end of it; Vereen broke a bone in his wrist that Sunday. The injury necessitated surgery and the talented back went on injured reserve with the designation to return.
His comeback took eight weeks.
"It's been a roller coaster ride," Vereen said with a wry smile. "A lot of peaks and valleys, but that's football and that's how it goes. I'm just happy to be here now. I'm happy that I can be part of the team."
It's taken a while.
Vereen played just five games his rookie year for hamstring injuries. He took a halting step forward the following season in 13 games but never really broke out.
The door opened wider when New England chose not to re-sign Danny Woodhead, who was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2012 season. Vereen had the talent to step in as a third-down/situational back, he just needed the opportunity.
"Shane, the more opportunity he’s gotten, the more he’s been able to do for us," Bill Belichick remarked in Sunday's postgame. "When he got an opportunity to play, he did a good job. When he’s been in there, he’s been pretty productive for us. There’s just been times and reasons over the course of his career, for one reason or another, where his opportunities have been somewhat limited."
He's finally capitalizing.
Vereen had 10 rushes for 31 yards and 8 catches for 65 in Week 11. He followed that performance up with 10 rushes for 38 yards and 5 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown against Houston. This Sunday marked a career night.
With every week it appears Vereen continues evolving from a situational player to an every-down back.
"It's just more, it's more that I have to focus on," he said of the increased workload. "But it's the game of football and that's what they asked me to do, so that's what I'm prepared to do."
He insists he will do whatever the team needs of him to win. So if nothing else, Vereen has the right attitude.
"I mean, if I had to catch the ball in order for us to win the game and make some plays throughout the year, then that’s what, hopefully, I’ll be able to do going forward. Really, it’s all about the team and it’s all about getting a victory."