Rookie Vereen must catch up quickly

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Rookie Vereen must catch up quickly

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO Shane Vereen carried the ball 11 times for 34 yards in Thursday's 18-17 preseason loss to the New York Giants.

Not that big a deal, right?

When you consider the hamstring injury that sidelined the rookie running back for most of training camp, getting an opportunity to be on the field was in itself a victory.

Forget about playing.

Vereen acknowledges not being able to participate in practice has made his first foray into the NFL a frustrating one at times.

"The main thing is I want to be there for my team and help them out any way possible," Vereen said following the game. "I was able to get out there today a little bit."

Like any player, whether you're a pup like Vereen or an All-Pro, opportunities to get on the field in preseason games are the best gauge to see just how far a player has come -- or how far they have to go -- before the regular season begins.

"We're trying to evaluate everybody, including the veterans," said Pats coach Bill Belichick. "What veterans did last year, that's great, but that's last year. It's really where they are now and what they can contribute to this team, so I think they have to prove themselves just like the rookies do."

But the difference is that with veterans, they have a track record of having proven themselves NFL-ready.

Rookies? Not so much. Just about everything rookies do is a first-time experience.

When you compound the challenges of everything being new with an injury, it's understandable why Vereen's approach to Thursday's game was a bit different. As a running back, the objective of most games is to avoid as many hits as possible.

But when you've been shelved for as long as Vereen was, any contact is good contact.

"That was the big thing about his first preseason game, being able to bang a little bit," he said. "It was a sigh of relief when I finally did."

But for Vereen to get an opportunity to play meaningful reps this year, a lot of things will have to fall into place in a hurry.

Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have established themselves as New England's top two running backs. And with only Thursday's game under his belt, Vereen will have a difficult time pushing ahead of players such as fellow rookie Stevan Ridley or veteran Sammy Morris.

Although things have been challenging, Vereen acknowledged earlier that having played in a pro system like the one he was in at Cal under Jeff Tedford, helped a lot.

"The system that we used back in college is pretty spread, and we did a lot of different things," said Vereen, who is the latest in a long line of Cal running backs (Jahvid Best, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett) to land in the NFL. "It helped me understand defenses."

Now if he can just stay healthy enough to put that knowledge to use, and potentially move up the depth chart.

Knowing he has missed a considerable amount of time due to his injury, Vereen is eager to prove himself on the field not only to himself, but also his teammates.

However, he says he won't put too much pressure on himself to perform.

"I don't think I need to step outside and try too hard, step outside of what I do," he said. "I have confidence in myself and whatever role coaches want me to play. I'm more than willing to step into that role."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.