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Sports

July 31, 2013

Patriots feature varied group of running backs

(Continued)

At tight end, Aaron Hernandez was cut after being arrested and then charged with murder, and Rob Gronkowski could open the season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from back surgery.

“I hope that the offense has enough versatility and flexibility built within it so that we can do what we need to do to win with the players that we have,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Blount is a power runner. He rushed for 1,007 yards as a rookie in 2010 but only 131 in 13 games last season.

“I’m expecting to do whatever they need me to do,” he said.

Vereen could assume some of the role Danny Woodhead played as a third-down back and receiver out of the backfield. Woodhead signed a free-agent deal with the San Diego Chargers after catching 40 passes last season.

“We’ve added a few guys, but the offense calls for all of us to do a lot of things,” Vereen said. “We have a long way to go as a group. Everybody has their things that they need to work on, including myself.”

Leon Washington also could play a receiving role. The Patriots signed the 31-year-old free agent primarily to return kicks, but he was a productive pass catcher with the New York Jets in his first three seasons from 2006-08.

“He’s played (running back) before but not a lot recently with the Seahawks,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We’ll put him in our system, teach him the things that he needs to learn at that position, evaluate him with the other players.”

The Patriots will have a day off before resuming practice on Thursday. They plan to practice with the Eagles next Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I’m excited because we’re that much closer to the season getting rolling,” Ridley said. “Camp is back-to-back days looking at the same coaches, the same players, and the first preseason game really can’t come soon enough.

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