FOXBOROUGH -- His left wrist still a little swollen and sporting a fresh surgical scar, running back Shane Vereen chatted with reporters Wednesday, the first time he's done so since suffering the injury that landed him on short-term injured reserve after Week 1 against Buffalo.
"I was ecstatic. Waited a long time," Vereen said of returning to game play Monday night against the Panthers. "Just to be out there with the guys, with the team, and feel a part of the team again and feel I could contribute is awesome."
Vereen was able to return to practice six weeks after he was placed on IR, but couldn't play for eight weeks. Since the Patriots' bye fell on what could have been his first week back, his return was delayed a bit longer.
The time off wasn't easy.
"It was tough," said Vereen. "Real tough. Nobody likes being injured, especially not someone that’s been injured as much as I have. So it was tough, especially seeing my team out there and I couldn’t participate but I’m back now and moving forward hopefully we’ll be able to get better each week," Vereen said.
Against Carolina, he was thrown right back into the fire, on the field for the second play of the game, and wound up playing 34 snaps, about half the offensive snaps the Patriots had. Vereen finished with eight receptions for 65 yards, both team highs.
He said he did not feel limited.
"I felt that I could do whatever they asked me to do within the game plan," he said.
"I just concentrated on what I needed to do personally as my assignment each play.
"I had to kind of calm myself down and take it slow, and I really took the game at a slower rate mentally so I didn't overwhelm myself with the excitement and everything going on."
As Tom Brady noted, Monday night was the first time this season that the offense has had its full complement of skill players, so the unit remains a work in progress, though it should certainly be headed in the direction given the addition of Vereen, which came a couple of weeks after Rob Gronkowski returned.