Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brady 'confident' in Leon filling Vereen's shoes


Shane Vereen gained the most yards of any New England Patriot skill position player in the team's season opener, but his fast start will be short-lived.

A day after reports surfaced that Vereen had surgery for a broken wrist following the Patriots' victory over the Buffalo Bills, the team announced Tuesday it placed Vereen on the injured reserve list with designation to return.

According to Christopher Price of WEEI, Vereen will be eligible to return to the practice field at the conclusion of Week 7 and can return to game action Week 10.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Tuesday he has confidence recently re-signed utility back Leon Washington, a former New York Jet, can step into Vereen's role. The Patriots host the Jets Thursday night.

"I really have always enjoyed being around Leon since I met him in the spring here," Brady said. "He's provided great leadership, one of the best kick returners in the league, [I] have a lot of confidence in him at the running back position, and doing a lot of things that we asked Shane [Vereen] to do when Shane was in there, so whatever role he fits, I'm confident in him.

"[I'm] confident in Stevan [Ridley], I'm confident in LeGarrette [Blount], Brandon Bolden – I mean, we've got a good group."

Ridley entered the season as the assumed No. 1 back but was benched Sunday after putting the ball on the ground twice. He's had fumble issues in the past and will need to shake the habit quickly.

"Stevan needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball, and he knows that," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told the media Monday.

If Ridley continues to have slick hands, Blount will be more than happy to have a heavier workload turned over to him. As for Washington, the veteran back hasn't had much work the last few years offensively but was a great catch-and-runner during his time with the Jets.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes how Washington fits in Foxborough.

"Leon has a lot of reps in our system, both on offense and in the kicking game," Belichick told the media Tuesday. "His learning curve is much smaller: just the game plan specifics for that individual week that we’re going into that he has to brush up on like every other player does.

"But the overall background and the basics of our system, he’s well trained in, relative to a player that wasn’t here, no question about that."

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