Shane Vereen won't play, but Patriots are mum on injury
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The first name on the Patriots' official injury report yesterday was that of running back Shane Vereen, who was listed as "did not practice" because of a wrist injury. That's as close as the club came to confirming a Fox Sports report that Vereen broke a bone in his wrist during a season-opening win over Buffalo, underwent surgery Monday and is expected to be out several weeks.
Bill Belichick spoke about Vereen in a conference call in the morning with New England media before the injury report surfaced and gave no hint anything was amiss. Speaking in the afternoon to media covering the Jets, Belichick said he was awaiting a medical report.
But there's no doubt Vereen, who rushed 14 times for 101 yards, caught seven passes for 58 yards and set up the winning FG with a 15-yard run, will not be in the lineup against the Jets Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. There is a question whether regular starting running back Stevan Ridley will be in the lineup or on the bench.
Ridley carried nine times for 46 yards, but was benched after fumbling twice. One fumble was ruled down by contact, but the other was returned 74 yards for a touchdown by the Bills' Da'Norris Searcy. That's why Vereen's role expanded beyond his usual third-down duties.
Neither Ridley nor former Jet Leon Washington, who was cut by the Pats after training camp and then re-signed Saturday, were available to the media Monday. Washington was inactive against the Bills, but he knows the offense and likely will be called upon to fill Vereen's spot.
As Belichick said in the morning conference call: "Leon's got some versatility and gives us depth in those areas that we feel is important. That's why he's here."
Backup running back LeGarrette Blount at least acknowledged the loss of Vereen. "Losing him is a big shot," Blount said. "He was the most productive back on the team [Sunday]. We've got to find a way to fill his role."
The Patriots' running back situation is complicated by Ridley's drops. The third-year back has a history of fumbling, and Belichick once benched him for a Super Bowl because of it.
Blount was uncertain whether his role might expand as a result of Ridley's miscues. "He's our starting guy," Blount said. "You're going to have bad games. You're going to have costly mistakes. That goes for him and anybody else on our squad.
"I don't know how much of an opportunity it provides for anyone. It doesn't mean he's going to fumble every game. It's really discouraging to feel like they turned their back on you. I feel nobody does that. We're going to come right back to him this week."
Maybe and maybe not. Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged Ridley's fumbles as the reason for his second-half benching. "Stevan needs to do a better job of holding on to the ball, and he knows that," McDaniels said. "Any decision on the future or what is going to happen this week or next week, I don't think those have been made yet."