When the buzz on the street is about an injured Patriots player, and that the team may be downplaying the extent of that injury, you know there's something serious happening. The team's lengthy history of submitting questionable injury reports during game weeks has conditioned fans, coaches and opponents to take what is on the list with a grain of salt.
After news broke this week that exploratory surgery on Laurence Maroney's shoulder revealed "fairly significant damage" the scouting pipeline buzzed with talk about who the Pats may focus on in the Draft if Maroney isn't ready for the start of the season.
At the owner's meetings, Patriots personnel guru Scott Pioli addressed the Maroney issue and attempted to downplay the significance of the injury. "Laurence is fine," Pioli said on Sirius NFL Radio Tuesday. "There was a report [Monday] I guess that he had surgery. Laurence is going to be fine. His mom even came out and made a statement today that he was going to be fine."
Pioli maintained the Patriots' standard mantra of "Everything is fine until it isn't." Of course what else would you expect from a team that has made deciphering their weekly injury report a subject of discussion in Phoenix? New England's propensity to manage the injury information surrounding their players is well known among league owners who are concerned about the accuracy of those reports.
Monday, the buzz began within the scouting community that Maroney's injury may cause the team to put more emphasis on finding a top tier running back via the Draft. Of course, that speculation was fueled by the knowledge that Maroney may miss time due to his recovery, and that the team had already released their only other top back, Corey Dillon.
Scout.com reported Monday that scouts in attendance at the Louisville Pro Day were abuzz over the Patriots running back issue. According to TFY Draft Preview, the conversation amongst the scouts in attendance was about Maroney's extensive surgery. Discussion ensued surrounding the notion that the Patriots are looking for a contingency plan in case Maroney is sidelined for an extended period of time.
Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears was one of the many scouts / assistant coaches there to watch the Pro Day. He has been making the rounds looking at numerous top running backs and the scouting community knows this. His travels have added momentum to the speculation running rampant in certain circles that the Patriots may use one of their two first round draft picks on another running back.
|New England Patriots running back Laurence Maroney runs against the Atlanta Falcons Aug. 11, 2006 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)|
Maroney was selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft (21st overall). He gained 745 yards on 175 carries (4.3 avg.) and 6 touchdowns in the regular season as a rookie. As a receiver, Maroney recorded 22 receptions for 194 yards (8.8 avg.) and one touchdown. He finished second in the league on kick off returns by returning 28 kickoffs for 783 yards (28.0 avg.).
The Patriots still have running backs on their current roster in addition to Maroney: Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk and Quadtrine Hill. They also signed free agent Sammy Morris to add depth. If it turns out that Maroney will miss a fair amount of camp time, expect the Patriots to add at leat one more running back. It is believed they intended to add another back via the Draft even before news on Maroney's injury surfaced.