FOXBORO -- Shane Vereen wasn't expecting to see his first carries as an NFL running back in the fourth quarter of a blowout, but that's exactly when the call came.
With just over five minutes left to play in the Patriots' 34-3 Monday night win over Kansas City, Vereen came in off the sideline and carried on six of the next seven Patriots plays. Caught up in the excitement, he doesn't remember what was called in the huddle immediately before his first NFL carry.
"They called my name and my heart started pounding," Vereen said Friday. "But once Tom Brady called the play it was time to go and I wasn't really thinking about anything. I'm pretty sure it was a zone to the right, but I couldn't even tell you right now. I can't really remember everything."
He carried twice more on the drive, and 10 plays after his first NFL carry, he recorded his first NFL touchdown. That play-call he'll never forget: an outside zone run to the left side.
The touchdown didn't mean much in deciding the game's outcome -- it was the final score for a game in which the result was, at that point, all but decided. But still, Vereen believes that play, and all the others he saw in the game's final minutes, meant something to his progress as a rookie running back.
"I think it was a big step for me personally," Vereen said. "As far as my development I think it helped. At this point, any game situation would help any rookie in that case. It was a good thing I was able to get some burn."
Vereen had trouble getting on the field early in the season because of a hamstring injury he sustained in just his second training camp practice with the Patriots. The rookie second-round pick out of the University of California played in just three games before Monday night, mostly on special teams.
He saw a lot of work in the kicking game on Monday, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN, playing on the kickoff, kick return and punt return units.
Now that he's healthy, Vereen can focus even more on the mental aspect of the game, something that he says he is becoming more and more natural for him.
"There's an obvious learning curve," he said. "But I feel more comfortable with it now than I did before and each day that I'm in the system and learning things, I feel more and more comfortable with it."
Vereen isn't sure how he'll factor into Sunday's game against the Eagles -- whether he'll be in for mop-up duty again, or if he'll receive more meaningful carries -- but he appreciates the fact that he's on a team that's unafraid of using several running backs. It means that his opportunities are just a call away.
"Whoever's in there, whenever we go in, I think everyone has complete confidence in that person that's in the game," Vereen said. "When you are that person in the game, you have complete confidence in yourself, and the other backs around you that you'll be able to get the job done."
For his part, Vereen wouldn't mind if his job continues to include more responsibility.
"It feels good to be able to help contribute to the team in any way shape or form and I was able to do that last weekend," he said. "It was good helping the team out."