Maroney plans to run harder in 5th NFL season

Laurence Maroney’s dreadlocks were bunched together with a

rubber band, not the most attractive way to display that

hairdo.

A few feet away, another Patriots running back, BenJarvus

Green-Ellis, stood with his dreadlocks flowing freely.

”His probably looks better,” Maroney said of his close friend.

”There’s no point in trying to look pretty for camp. This is

probably going to be my new style for the year. Rough. This is my

statement. Rough.

”That’s how I’ve got to be on the field. Rough. I can’t go out

there being all pretty because then you’re all going to say I’m

dancing.”

Critics have been saying that ever since 2006 when New England

drafted him in the first round out of Minnesota.

The rap against him is that he wastes too much time in the

backfield looking for holes, running from side to side. Can’t he

just attack the first opening he sees?

This season Maroney wants to eliminate those criticisms.

”I’m not trying to be on, what’s that dance show they’ve got on

TV? ‘Dancing with the Stars?”’ he said with his ever-present

smile. ”I’m physical. Downhill.”

Maroney improved on that last year when, for the first time in

his four seasons, he didn’t miss any games because of injuries. He

rushed for nine touchdowns but ran for only 757 yards and a 3.9

average carry in 15 games.

”I feel like I ran the ball harder than I ever ran,” he said.

”I felt comfortable running the way I ran last year, had some good

successful games running. Now it’s just basically taking what I did

last year and bringing it to this year and improving on it.”

If he had done that earlier – and avoided injury – the Patriots

might not still be operating with a running back by committee.

In 2007, Maroney missed three games with a groin injury and led

the team with 835 yards rushing, but four teammates combined for

more carries. In 2008, he missed 13 games with a shoulder injury.

Last year, he started five of 15 games and led the team with 757

yards rushing, but had fewer carries than the total of Sammy

Morris, Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor and Green-Ellis.

All four are back in training camp, competing with Maroney for

playing time.

”As a group, I think we’re able to step up and even toward the

end of the season we got really thin at running back (and) Kevin’s

asked to do a little more than he had before,” Morris said. ”I

think it’s just a testament to the kind of guys that we have.

There’s no job that’s too little or trivial for us.”

As a rookie, Maroney learned from Corey Dillon, who led the

Patriots in rushing that season. But most of the other five running

backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2006 have been more

productive, even though Reggie Bush (picked second) was the only

player at that position chosen before Maroney (21st).

DeAngelo Williams (27th), Joseph Addai (30th) and Maurice

Jones-Drew (60th) all have more combined yards rushing and

receiving. Only LenDale White (45th) from those two rounds has

fewer than Maroney.

Even Marion Barber, who shared time with Maroney in Minnesota’s

backfield and was drafted in 2005, had more total yards in his

first four seasons than Maroney has in his.

But Maroney is just 25 and healthy now. He still can lean on his

fellow running backs for advice.

”I’ve got a lot of veterans (who have) done a lot of great

things in their time that I can learn from,” he said. ”I feel

real comfortable coming into my fifth year.”

He was frustratingly inconsistent in his first four.

Last season, he didn’t rush for more than 32 yards in any of his

first five games. Then he broke loose for 123. But he followed that

with games of 43, then up to 82, down to 31 and up again to 77.

”That’s the biggest thing around here,” he said. ”You can

come out here and play one or two good games but you’ve got to be

consistent throughout the whole year. So that’s my main goal, just

stay consistent.”

And stop dancing.