Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston
Patriots rookie Shane Vereen at his locker Thursday at Gillette Stadium.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sidelined for nearly all of training camp with a hamstring injury, New England Patriots rookie running back Shane Vereen said Thursday that he's nearing full health and hopes to stay on the field as the regular season nears.
Vereen, injured in his second practice of training camp in early August, returned to full-pads activities for the first time Wednesday. He said Thursday he's uncertain if he'll be able to play in Saturday's exhibition game in Detroit -- unsure if he'll even travel -- but is simply happy to be back on the field after three weeks.
"[Practice] went good, as far as being able to get back out there," said Vereen. "I'm looking forward to staying out there this time."
One of New England's two second-round picks (56th overall), Vereen rushed for 2,834 yards in three seasons at California. He said the Cal system prepped him well for New England's spread offense. And while the 5-foot-10, 205-pound back wouldn't deem himself at full health, he is getting closer.
"I’m getting there, getting real close," said Vereen, who admitted he feels a bit behind, in part because of the lack of OTAs and camps during the lockout. The time away from the field allowed him to dive into the playbook and study film, but hamstring injuries can be tricky to overcome, especially trying to avoid aggravating the injury.
"I think my body feels behind, it's sore," admitted Vereen. "But I feel good... I'm ready to play."
Despite being unable to get on the field, Vereen said he won't put additional pressure on himself to make up for lost time.
"I don’t think I need to step outside and try too much," said Vereen. "I have confidence in myself. And whatever role the coaches want me to play, that's what I'll be willing to do."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick stressed that there's a lot more that goes into learning the running back position than simply carrying the football.
"Talk about blitz pickup, all the different fronts you can have, all the different blitz assignments, with various protections and all the combination blitzes that we see these days," said Belichick. "I think running back is a very mentally challenging position to learn. All the different run reads, the fronts that teams run, the way they stem to them, the stunts when the ball is snapped, things that happen after the ball is snapped, reading coverages, recognizing man, zone, combination man and zones, guys that are blitzing, guys that are faking that they’re blitzing but they’re really in coverage, guys that start off in coverage and then turn around and blitz. I think the running back’s job is very difficult."
Vereen said he's leaning on the veterans on the team to help him catch up on what was forfeited by the summer work stoppage.
"Missing OTAs and all that type of stuff, it kinda set a lot of rookies back," said Vereen. "But a lot of the vets are helping us out and moving us along pretty well. We’ll just see how it goes."