Cunningham: Maroney must find a way

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Laurence Maroney wears No. 39, as Sam "Bam" Cunningham did for the New England Patriots three decades ago.

That's pretty much where the similarities end when it comes to their running styles. Maroney is a shifty sort who aggravates fans with his hesitancy. Cunningham was a head-down, straight-ahead battering ram who delivered punishment more than he avoided it.

Suffice to say, Patriots fans would love to see a little Bam in Maroney's game.

For now, they'll have to settle for some of Cunningham's words in Maroney's ear.

The two running backs met for several minutes after Wednesday morning's practice outside Gillette Stadium. Cunningham is in town for Thursday afternoon's induction into the Patriots' Hall of Fame.

"It's nice motivational insight that he gave to me that I'm going to take with me and run with it," Maroney said.

"Just showing our respects because I didn’t really find out when they gave me the number the legacy behind the number until, like, my second year. ... He was telling me 'This is our number. Just keep it going.' "

Before they met, I had a chance to ask Cunningham for his take on Maroney, the 21st overall draft choice in 2006.

"How can I say this?" Cunningham said. There was a long pause. "I'm not intensely focused on the running backs, but when Laurence came to the team and I looked at his resume from where he came from, I thought it was a good opportunity for him to make an impact."

That hasn't happened to the degree the Patriots have hoped. Maroney had a career-high nine touchdowns last year, but he has battled injuries and fumbling problems. His highest rushing total was 835 yards in 2007.

Cunningham was a fullback from a different era. In 1977, when they played 14 games, he ran for 1,015 yards and caught 42 passes for another 370 yards. He went to the Pro Bowl a season later, rushing for 768 yards and eight touchdowns.

"There are some fans that dislike him with a passion, you know?" Cunningham said with a laugh. "Some love him, too. But we're two different kinds of backs. He's nowhere near as big as I am, and they don't run the same offense. They don't even play the same football we did in my day.

"I could take him back and show him film. In our day we had different kinds of running backs, too. We had one that was 5-5, 155 pounds named Mack Herron.

"So you look at me and you look at [Herron] and say 'How does he survive in this world?' Well, he does. He finds a way. Laurence has to find that way to do that."