Maroney talks a rugged game in camp

We've known for a long time New England Patriots running back Laurence Maroney hears his critics.

For a piece I wrote about Maroney at last year's training camp, he acknowledged his perception as a timid runner, something that has driven fans bonkers since the Patriots drafted him 21st overall in 2006.

"You really can't avoid it," Maroney told me a year ago. "You see it all the time, hear it all the time. You have no choice but to hear it. ... I don't care how hard you try to block it out. Some way, somehow it's going to get back to you.

"But do you pay attention to it? No, because if I did then I'd drive myself crazy. You just have to keep pushing."

Maroney also told me then he didn't feel his role in the Patriots' backfield was threatened by the arrival of free agent Fred Taylor or holdovers Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. Maroney claimed he had nothing to prove.

In a story for the Associated Press that was posted Sunday on ESPN.com, Maroney once again saluted his detractors.

This time, however, he suggested he does need to make a statement to shut them up.

"There's no point in trying to look pretty for camp," Maroney said, referring to BenJarvus Green-Ellis' dreadlocks looking better than his. "This is probably going to be my new style for the year. Rough. This is my statement. Rough.

"That's how I've got to be on the field. Rough. I can't go out there being all pretty because then you're all going to say I'm dancing."

As the AP story points out, in addition to injuries and suffering from bouts of fumblitis, Maroney has the reputation for doing the backfield boogie before picking a hole and running through it.

"I'm not trying to be on, what's that dance show they've got on TV? 'Dancing with the Stars?'" Maroney said. "I'm physical. Downhill."

In the Patriots' backfield committee, Maroney rushed for a team-high 757 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns last season.

But his 3.9-yard average was about a half-yard lower than his first two NFL seasons.

He fumbled four times and lost them all.

"I feel like I ran the ball harder than I ever ran," Maroney said. "I felt comfortable running the way I ran last year, had some good successful games running. Now it's just basically taking what I did last year and bringing it to this year and improving on it."