Vereen says RBs are behind Ridley

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Since returning to the lineup in Week 11 after missing eight games due to a wrist injury, Patriots running back Shane Vereen has reasserted himself as an integral part of the offense, catching 21 passes in just three outings.

During a time when fellow third-year back Stevan Ridley finds himself pushed down the depth chart due to fumbling woes, Vereen is ascending into a more prominent role than he has previously played. He said on Thursday that, despite still wearing a wrist brace for games, he feels good and the injury is no longer an issue.

"I haven't had any problems with it, haven't had any issues with it," he said. "Really, there's not too much thought about it at all."

With Vereen now manning prominent running back duties and Ridley playing a more uncertain role, it's a change from 2012, when Ridley was the workhorse and Vereen played a less consistent role within the offense.

The former second-round pick noted that he and his fellow running backs are providing support for Ridley as he works on ball-security issues.

"Everybody goes through their ups and downs, and when you're down, you need teammates, you need friends to help bring you back to where you should be and start playing with confidence again," Vereen said.

He and the fellow running backs remain confident in Ridley, who politely declined to speak with reporters on Thursday.

"Stevan is a great player," Vereen said. "We're there when he needs us. But he knows what he has to do and we fully expect him to do that."

The Patriots running backs have had another productive season, chipping in to the league's 12th best ground attack, but Vereen said improvement is key as the season continues.

"We've definitely got work to do, but we've put ourselves in a pretty good situation, but there's room to improve," he said. "We need to improve if we want to continue playing."