Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/25/12
Seeing the field has never been an issue for Shane Vereen. Getting on the field, though, that's an entirely different story. After being drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2011 draft, Vereen was expected to be an immediate impact player out of the backfield. But injuries kept that expectation from ever becoming a reality during his rookie season and even through the first six weeks of his second year -- a difficult beginning for a young player just trying to find his way in the NFL. "Obviously, it's something that I've struggled with, but hopefully, I'll be able to put it behind me," Vereen said, according to The Boston Globe. "It makes it a lot harder, because when you're faced with an injury or something like that, you're kind of removed and not out there all the time. So in order to stay engaged with what's going on, you have to stay mentally involved with the team." That mental toughness has seen Vereen finally overcome the dreaded injury bug and work his way into the Patriots running back rotation last week against the Jets, albeit partially due to rookie Brandon Bolden's lingering knee problem. With eight carries for 49 yards and a 10-yard reception in his first NFL start, Vereen nearly matched his career totals of 17 carries and 58 yards to that point. Even more impressively, though, at long last he showed off the versatility and speed that made him so appealing as a prospect. "He's an elusive guy," Bill Belichick said of the second-year back. "He gives us some versatility there, and I think he's able to run inside and run into some traffic, but he's a good space player on the edge and in the passing game." Belichick knows Vereen has faced a bit of bad luck since entering the NFL, and that some players can escape out from behind the misfortune. But even with the troubles, the coach still believes in Vereen's ability to contribute for the Patriots this season and into the future. "I do think he can be productive, regardless of who else is out there. He's a good player in his own right without waiting for somebody else to get injured," Belichick said. "Unfortunately, he hasn't had a lot of opportunities in the last year and a half, but the ones he's had have been fairly positive. "Not that I hope that anything happens to anyone else, but hopefully he'll get more opportunities because I think he can contribute for us." Vereen's speed and pass-catching ability out of the backfield -- a skill starting back Stevan Ridley is still developing -- make him yet another dangerous weapon on an already loaded Patriots offense. Now, with Belichick's approval, Vereen may be in line for even more time in the backfield, too. An expectation the 23-year-old tailback can only hope comes to fruition. "Every time I put the uniform on, you get real excited," Vereen said, hoping for more opportunities to don the jersey. "You get fired up and ready to play." Coming off a big-time performance against New York and with Bolden still recovering from his knee injury, Vereen should have another opportunity to sport the Patriots' red and blue in London this weekend. It's an opportunity he'll welcome with open arms. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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