By Rich Levine
FOXBORO The Patriots showed last Sunday that theyre more than capable of producing a solid ground game without the services of Laurence Maroney.
But with Maroney shipped to Denver earlier this week, the one area where the Pats running-back corps is most affected is depth. With one less proven, capable runner on the roster, it will be more essential than ever that the remaining backs stay healthy and on the field. Something thats obviously been an issue for New England's current No. 1 back Fred Taylor.
Over the course of his first 12 years in the league, Taylor developed the reputation as an injury-prone player. Not soft, but just a guy who, for one reason or another, tends miss at least a game or two every season. Hes only played all 16 games twice in his career, and last year missed 10 weeks because of ligament damage to his right ankle.
But this season, with Maroney now a mile high in Denver, the Pats can hardly afford to enter any Sunday with Taylor in street clothes. Obviously, Taylor understands this, but, as he noted Thursday, sometimes injuries are just the way of the NFL beast.
"The thing is," said Taylor, who led the Pats with 71 yards on 14 carries against the Bengals, "a lot of times people dont realize how brutal this game is that we play. I still always look back to the practice with the Saints when we was just walking through and a guy snapped his ACL. There have been other situations over the years. Jamal Anderson is another who sticks out in Atlanta. He was just running a swing route out of the backfield and popped his ACL . . . Injuries are apart of the game."
While he is, and hopefully continues to be, healthy, he knows what the Pats need and expect from him. And he doesn't expect that to change just because the teams now short one certified back on the roster.
"There's no extra pressure," Taylor said. "This is my job, this what I have to do, and I've been doing it for a while. The only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves to come out and perform at a high level. So losing a back, Ive been through that situation times and times again, and thats never been something that would increase the pressure. Its me. If I put pressure on myself it would just be me wanting to do everything as close to perfect as I can."
When asked specifically about Maroney, a young back who Taylor took under his wing after joining the Pats, Taylor was brief, and made it clear he was ready to move on from the issue.
"He's fine. You always want to find a positive in any situation so speaking on Laurence, which is the last question, hes doing fine."
He's more focused on the guys who are still with the team and hopes that he, Sammie Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvis Green-Ellis, can take the field on Sunday and deliver the same balanced attack that helped bring home a W against the Bengals.
"I thought we did a pretty good job with getting all the backs involved," he said. "That came down from the coaching from above, and going into that we kind of knew it would be that way. It felt good for each one of us to get in there and not get cold on the sideline."