It's been a frustrating start to Shane Vereen's NFL career. First, he was forced to stay away from his new line of work due to the league-wide lockout. Then, once he got on the field, he was forced off it almost right away because of a hamstring injury.
The rookie running back has been back in uniform for practice this week and hopes to see his first game action this Saturday night in Detroit against the Lions. Even that prospect, though, remains unclear. As of Thursday afternoon, he hadn't been told by the coaching staff if he'd be traveling with the team for its third preseason game.
In the meantime, he continues to focus on getting back to 100-percent health.
"I'm getting there. I'm getting real close," Vereen said, "been working hard training, getting it ready to go.
"I think my body feels behind," he noted. "My body needs to go through being sore and the grind. [Mentally] I feel good, yeah, I'm clear and I'm ready to play."
Vereen has been aided in the mental aspect in two ways. One, his teammates.
"Yeah, missing OTAs and all that kind of set a lot of the rookies back," Vereen continued, "but a lot of the vets are helping us out, moving us along pretty well."
And two, the college system in which he was reared at Cal.
"Certain things are [similar]," he pointed out. "The names and terminology are different. It helped a lot. The system we used back in college was pretty spread, helped me understand defenses."
The biggest challenge so far, not surprisingly, has been physical.
"Obviously, my hamstring, coming back and then being out once again, not really being able to get a feel for everything. It's tough," admitted Vereen, "just the ups and downs of football, I guess. You know going in that that's a possibility. Unfortunately, it happened to me and I'm dealing with it."
To recover, Vereen said he's been resting, stretching, and whatever else he could do to get back in playing shape as quickly as possible. At the same time, he insisted he's not going to overextend himself to try to make an impression on the coaching staff.
"I don't think I need to try too hard and step outside of what I do. I have confidence in myself and whatever role coaches want me to play, I'll be happy to.
"This week has been good," added Vereen, "finally being able to get back out there has been fun. I'm looking forward to staying out there this time."
'Fighter' night in Foxborough
To break the routine and give his players a bit of a mental release, Bill Belichick hosted a movie night for his players last week. The flick of choice was "The Fighter," a 2010 Oscar nominee for Best Picture which chronicled the life and times of Lowell, Mass.-based boxing champ Micky Ward.
The head coach regularly does this sort of thing in the preseason, but this time, he added a twist, inviting Ward himself to join the team for the viewing party.
Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeted a picture of himself and Ward, and the next day, players gave the evening rave reviews.
"I think [Belichick] just sent us a message, watching that movie" safety James Sanders observed, "seeing the trials and tribulations that Micky Ward went through. It just shows you that, physically and mentally, you can push yourself to levels that you think you might not be able to push yourself."
"It was good that everyone got to hang out and have a good time together, eating popcorn and Gatorades and waters," guard Logan Mankins remarked. "You know, we are he a long time, from morning till night, so, it was nice to have an evening off."
For more on today's practice, please visit the PFW blog.