Vereen ready for different role in Patriots backfield

Vereen ready for different role in Patriots backfield
May 15, 2013, 12:45 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

FOXBORO -- Smart kids go to the University of California-Berkeley.
 
Shane Vereen went there. He knows what tough course work looks like. The syllabus in Foxboro is no picnic either.
 
With so many new offensive players trying to grasp the Patriots offensive system, how quickly skill players assimilate may go a long way toward determining how well the Patriots do.
 
Said Vereen, “School isn’t always easy at Cal and here it wasn’t always easy coming in. You gotta learn how to learn the system. Each system’s different and you gotta be able to learn how to make sense of it to yourself.”
 
Vereen is in position to make a big step this season. His rookie year was practically a redshirt season as he got hurt in camp and fell behind. Last season, he flashed on several occasions, most notably in the Patriots playoff romp over Houston. That evening, Vereen carried seven times for 41 yards and caught five passes for 83 including a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch down the left sideline while being blanketed. The fact Vereen, a running back, was lined up wide on the play as a boundary receiver shows the versatility the Patriots want. And the myriad positions a player has to master if he wants to be in the mix.
 
Vereen’s advice to players coming into the Patriots offense?
 
“Stay in the books,” he said. “At first it seems like a lot but the more you rep it, the more you see it and hear it, the easier it gets. Focus and concentrate and take advantage of the time with the coaches.”
 
Strategies for learning, Vereen said, differ from player-to-player.
 
“I’m more of a visual learner, so I learn by seeing it on the field but it’s just as important as seeing it on film or in the classroom in a notebook,” Vereen explained.
 
Vereen and fellow running back Stevan Ridley both are preparing for a season with bigger roles. The Patriots most knowledgeable running back, Danny Woodhead, is now a Charger. Even though he was travel-sized, Woodhead was the Patriots’ most reliable back because -- whether in blitz-pickup or running option routes for Tom Brady -- he got the nuances similar to the way Kevin Faulk did before Woodhead. Now it’s up to a player like Vereen to ascend.
 
“It’s gonna be hard to replace a guy like Woody,” Vereen acknowledged. “He had a lot of experience, he had a lot of knowledge, he was a smart player and his role was pretty key to the team. I learned a lot from him.”
 
Vereen also said he learned a lot from his playoff performance against Houston.  
 
“What I learned was I can do it,” he said. “Confidence-wise I can take that but there were a lot of mistakes made, a lot of areas to grow.”
 
Is he preparing for a bigger role in 2013?
 
“Not bigger but different,” he said. “I’m approaching this season a little bit different than last season in the mindset of my role on the team.”