Insight on 'the return of the fullback'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the Patriots signed free-agent fullbacks Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta this offseason, it sparked the thought that the position could be making a comeback in the team's offense.

In 2011, the Patriots didn't carry a traditional fullback on the roster. And some viewed the position as being on the verge of extinction league-wide.

The potential return of the fullback was brought up to Bill Belichick during his Thursday news conference, and his answer provided insight on the team's thinking.

In short, Belichick is open to carrying a player who is more of a traditional fullback, whether it's Larsen, Fiammetta or Eric Kettani. But a big factor in whether any of them stick will be a combination of their contributions on special teams, and whether keeping a fullback is more valuable than a linebacker, tight end and possibly even a running back.

So for those thinking the Patriots might be looking to establish more of a smash-mouth approach with a lead-blocking fullback based on the Larsen and Fiammetta moves, not necessarily.

"We’ll see how it goes in training camp. We have three guys that kind of have some degree of fullback experience, a little bit of tight end experience, a little bit of running back experience, so there may be some crossover there. All three of those players have some value in the kicking game [and] we’ll see how all that plays out," Belichick said.

"I think that’s a possibility [to carry a traditional fullback]. That’s why they’re here. They’re here to compete for that role on offense and that role in the kicking game. How that compares to what other players do, we’ll just have to see. We’ll have competition from that spot relative to linebacker, tight end, possibly running back and in the kicking game."

For those interested in the composition of a 53-man roster, this is the type of stuff that can be fun to dissect. It also speaks to how special teams drives the decision-making process, with fullbacks, tight ends and linebackers viewed through the same prism.

"It may change the composition of our team a little bit from what it was last year [but] it may not. We’ll see," Belichick said of possibly having a traditional fullback on the roster.

"Those guys haven’t really played for us. Eric was here, but then he wasn’t here [after being called back to the Navy], so I think he’s still a bit of an unknown quantity. We’ll evaluate those three guys with everybody else and see how it goes."