FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears is in his 40th season coaching football, with 25 of those coming in the NFL and 19 in New England. He’s seen a lot over that time, and one thing he stressed with some fire Thursday is that June isn’t the time for definitive statements about players.
The topic came up when he was asked about the closely watched competition for the pass-catching running back role vacated by Shane Vereen, as Brandon Bolden, James White, Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis are the top candidates.
“They all can catch the ball. They’re all learning. They’re looking very good in the shorts and T-shirts. I’m not going to say anything more than that when the guy is wearing shorts and T-shirts and playing football,” Fears said. “Wait until training camp and let’s see what the guys do when we get out there and the bullets start flying. Because that’s when it’s going to count. Right now, everyone looks good.”
Fears was just getting started.
“Next thing, of course you should know, is we’re not a one-man team. We build a team. That’s what we’re in the process of doing. We’re building a team and they will decide if they’ll be on that team by what they do,” Fears said, adding that evaluations in organized team activities are based on understanding concepts and the mental part of the game.
“There’s a lot going on [in OTAs]; it’s just not the total package there," he added. "You’re not going to put a stamp on it and say, ‘This guy is going to do it.’ Then we get out there in the first day of pads and he quickly gets run over and we’re saying, ‘What happened to that friggin’ genius that’s out there playing football? He ain’t worth a crap if he can’t block somebody.’
“So until we get to that point, all I’m going to say at this point is I really like what these guys are doing. They’re working hard, they’re all talented in their own way, and they will decide by what they do in training camp what we’re going to be. That’s part of building a team.”
A few other soundbites from Fears:
On adjusting to Vereen's departure: "We'll find a way. It might not be the same way with a guy like Shane running down the field, but we're going to find a way to win."
On James White: "I love everything he's doing, and that's all I'm going to say. You know it doesn't count right now. He's a part of the puzzle; he's doing exactly what he has to do. Really good, but like I'm saying to everyone else, when we get going and the [expletive] starts flying, real bullets are flying, we'll see who is going to be doing what. By what they do on the field, you will know as well as I will know -- there will be no secret to it. They have to do it on the field. Know what I mean?"
On Tyler Gaffney: "He's very capable. Let's have him tell you the story come August. That's where we're going to leave it. Hey, I ain't talking about anyone in shorts and T-shirts! Not in my game. Let's keep that straight. There's too much everybody wants to put on a guy running around in shorts and T-shirts. [Expletive], we all should look good. If they don't look good in shorts and T-shirts, we have a problem. We have a real problem. So let's wait until the [expletive] starts happening, let's see what happens later on when there is another guy on the other side doing something against him."