Maroney still holding steady
Confidence high as playoffs loom
FOXBOROUGH - One carry is all Laurence Maroney said he needs to get into a rhythm tomorrow in the Patriots’ wild-card playoff game against the Ravens.
“Let’s start there,’’ said the running back. “Just get one carry and just get out there and get a feel for the game and hope one carry leads to three, three carries leads to five, and you just keep going.’’
One fumble on the 1-yard line against Jacksonville Dec. 27 and Maroney was on the bench. The Patriots have not called on him to carry the ball since. It was his fourth fumble this season and second within 2 yards of the end zone. His fumbles are a career high, and have come at critical times. The miscues have overshadowed an otherwise career season for Maroney, who set career bests in carries (194) and touchdowns (nine). His 757 yards are 78 shy of his career best in 2007.
Bill Belichick isn’t concerned about Maroney losing confidence.
“He’s carried the ball plenty of times in his life,’’ said the coach. “He’s gotten a lot of reps out there on the practice field both last week and this week. I’m sure he will be ready to go. Laurence, I don’t think lacks any confidence. That’s the problem with him.’’
Yesterday, Maroney sounded like a man with no problems and plenty of confidence.
“I know how good of a back I am,’’ Maroney said. “I think the team knows how good of a back I am, as far as just going out there to prove anything, I don’t have to prove anything. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.’’
Maroney has played in 15 games this season and didn’t start handling a majority of the carries until Sammy Morris was injured against Tennessee Oct. 18. In that game, Maroney rushed for a season-high 123 yards on 16 carries on a snow-covered field. He went on to score rushing touchdowns in six consecutive games, the second-longest streak in franchise annals.
But for the first time in his career, Maroney is dealing with ball security and trying to gain the confidence of his coaches. Prior to this season, Maroney fumbled once in his career, back in his rookie season of 2006.
Ball security is part of the routine at practice and Maroney still feels he does a good job in that department.
“Don’t get me wrong, I fumbled [four] times this year, but I still feel like my ball security is good,’’ Maroney said. “I just get sloppy toward the end of certain runs to where it looks like my ball security isn’t the best. I know I just got to stay mentally focused on the going down part because most of my fumbles have been when I’m going down. It’s not like it’s been a fumble in the open field and a guy held me up and took the ball from me.’’
Maroney said he is prepared for whatever role is asked of him tomorrow. Whether it’s running the ball or rooting on his teammates from the sideline.
“They always say what don’t hurt you, makes you stronger,’’ Maroney said. “It’s a learning situation for me, too. It’s one thing I did learn is always be prepared no matter what.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.