Maroney Says He’ll be Ready to Shoulder the Load Come Opening Day

While the New England Patriots are being patient with Maroneyrunning back Laurence Maroney as he comes back from a shoulder injury, the back himself is anxious to finally get going.  Maroney is still wearing a red “non-contact” jersey in practice, but hopes that the red jersey will soon be a thing of the past.  He realizes that going out and getting hurt in the preseason will do the team no good, but thinks given the chance he’ll be out there the moment the regular season starts.

“I definitely can say I’d be ready to go if I didn’t play in the preseason,” Maroney said. “But hopefully I do play. I can practice against our defense all day, but I don’t think that speed is going to amount to game speed and what I’m going to see in real life. Hopefully I get a chance to play in the preseason and get a chance to catch up with the speed of the game and see things in live action. It’s never easy to miss action. I can sit here and watch film and practice plays. But until you see it in a real game, that’s when you get your most learning in.”

Maroney is going to have a lot of pressure on him in 2007, as if there is one weak area of the Pats this season, it would have to be in the running back department.  Last season the team still had Corey Dillon, but he was let go and now the team is counting on Maroney to really carry the load.  Last year he ran the ball 175 times for 745 yards and six touchdowns.  He easily this season could go over 250 carries with Dillon out of the picture.  That reason alone makes getting healthy even more important for the former U of Minnesota back.

“The body is feeling good. If you notice, I’ve been doing a little more contact. It’s just feeling real good,” said Maroney. “Hopefully, ask Bill (Belichick), I don’t know when, I’ll be out of the red sometime soon. It ain’t up to me. It’s up to Bill and the doctors, whenever they feel like I’m ready. They’ll take me out of the jersey. But every day I’m going to practice like I’m on call . . . I’m going to be ready.”   
Expect the Pats to continue to play the patience card with getting Maroney out there, but once he does and the shoulder passes the test, look for full speed ahead for the second-year back as he’ll be asked to really “shoulder” the load in 2007.

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