Shane Vereen, Giants trying to avoid similar mistake this year

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All eyes have been on Paul Perkins at running back this offseason with the New York Giants. It's warranted. He’s already been named the starter, quicker than most expected.

With the attention on Perkins, the relatively nondescript return of Shane Vereen has been lost in the shuffle during OTAs. He missed most of last season with a twice-torn triceps and had to renegotiate his contract this offseason to remain with the Giants.

Vereen has somehow managed to stay under the radar through this all. That’s not easy for a key part of the Giants' offense, a piece they missed more than most seem to realize. With Vereen sidelined most of the year, Giants running backs accounted for one receiving touchdown last season.

Vereen’s quiet spring can be attributed to the injury. He didn’t have much of an offseason. Most of his time has been spent rehabbing, and the Giants are taking it slowly this spring.

The goal: Be healthy and at full strength for the start of the season.

“I'm feeling good. The trainers and coaches are taking it day by day, and so am I,” Vereen said. “Hopefully, we'll be ready to go by Week 1.”

This is the plan after some regret of how everything went down last year. Vereen originally tore his triceps in a Week 3 loss to the Washington Redskins in which he played a good portion of the contest with the injury. The Giants declared him out for the season the following day, then backtracked hours later for what they considered a best-case scenario.

Vereen returned rather quickly for a key Week 14 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. He tore the triceps again the following week against the Detroit Lions.

“I'm not a doctor, but I think I rushed it a little bit too quick the first time,” Vereen said last week. “So this time around, we're definitely taking our time, we're definitely making sure the muscle is strong enough and the tendons are strong enough. So that way I don't miss any more time on the field.”

The early returns have been solid, but it's only the spring and OTAs. Vereen is expected to be on the field doing much of the same this week Tuesday through Friday at mandatory minicamp.

“Last year was a tougher year for him because he wasn’t able to stay on the field. He had to overcome injuries,” running backs coach Craig Johnson said. “Right now, he’s working through that. I’ve watched him in the offseason and he is getting back some of his quickness. We have to make sure that he is ready for the next season.”

The Giants can’t afford to be without him again. Their offense was missing something last year as they scored the seventh-fewest points in the league. Vereen's absence was the most notable difference from the previous season.

He went from 59 receptions for 494 yards and four touchdowns in 2015 to 11 catches for 94 yards and no touchdowns last year.

Mostly, Vereen was forced to watch as the offense stumbled.

“It's just one thing led to another,” he said. “When you can't stay on track on first or second down, then it’s third down. You get into third-down situations; it's the NFL, third-and-long is third-and-long and it's difficult for any offense. We just got ourselves in too many tough situations. Hard to get rhythm, and those are the things that we're working on this year.”

It’s an especially important season for Vereen after watching how running backs fared in free agency this offseason. He’s 28 and in the final year of his contract with the Giants.

Vereen already took a $1 million pay cut earlier this year. He can earn it back (plus more) if he plays well and reaches all the available incentives in his reworked deal.

“I understood it. I wasn't surprised by it,” he said. “They were very forthcoming. They were very honest with me about it. That’s what we needed to get done. So we got it done. I'm ready to move forward and ready to work.”

The Giants did the same with veteran wide receiver and special-teamer Dwayne Harris. Both took it in stride.

“This is the NFL,” Vereen said. “It's a business and really there is no certainty, no matter what year of the contract that you're in. You just got to come out and you got to work and let the chips fall as they may.”

It all starts with remaining healthy, and the Giants and Vereen seem to be taking precautions this spring to make sure it will happen.