Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears is excited about this year’s backfield. Really excited.
Fears, who is entering his 17th season as a member of the New England coaching staff — he’s been in charge of the running backs since 2002 — talked passionately about the group of running backs currently on the Patriots roster.
“It’s my blessing to be the room with those guys. I’m the privileged one,” Fears said after Tuesday’s OTA session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. “Believe me, Bill [Belichick] goes out and gets a nice bunch of guys to put in that room and guys who are good guys and good people. I’m fortunate enough to be in there with them, working with them. I look forward to that. I enjoy that.
“I take a lot of pride in making sure they come out here and get it done on the field. And that’s what they do. I’m very fortunate those guys want to do that. It makes it easy to coach them when they want to come out here and play and play like they play. So we’re looking forward to seeing what they can get done.”
Fears and the New England running backs are coming off an impressive year — Stevan Ridley evolved into one of the best young running backs in the league, while Brandon Bolden stepped forward to give the group depth. Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen provided a steady and dependable option in the role of third-down back, working to provide a pass-catching presence out of the backfield.
However, there’s been some change this offseason. The Patriots lost Woodhead to the Chargers in free agency, and added veterans Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount. Asked how that changes things for the Patriots’ backfield, Fears responded quickly.
“We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to find somebody to do what we’re going to do. And that’s what we’re do,” he said when asked specifically about the loss of Woodhead and his pass-catching prowess. “We’ve got a helluva quarterback. We’re going to find someone for him to throw to out of the backfield. Somebody is going to be there.”
To this point, he’s been excited about what he’s seen from Washington, a veteran who has knocked around the league since 2006 working as a third-down back and return man for the Jets and Seahawks.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to show his stuff. Hey, everybody is going to determine that out there by what they do. Not by what I say, but what they do. And if they’re getting it done, they’ll be the guys who are playing,” Fears said of Washington. “I’ve been impressed with him playing and coaching against him. I really have. So we’re kind of excited to have him here and looking forward to see what he’ll do with us. I really am.
“He’s a great guy. He’s a great guy,” added Fears. “And that’s all we every have. We don’t go for the other stuff. Our guys are solid people. They really are. I enjoy being in the room with my guys. I really do. Our guys. Not my guys — our guys. I enjoy being in the room with them. I really do. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s always fun when guys have the same goal in mind. We’re going to come out here and find a way to win. And that what it’s all about. None of the other stuff matters. The impressions, they don’t count. What counts is what they’re going to do when they get out there, when it matters. Let’s see what happens.”
Fears was reticent to give an initial impressions regarding Blount, only to say that he “love[d] being around him.”
“We’ll see what he does,” he said. “It’s kind of early — guy just got here, he’s learning the system. I love him in the meetings, I love being around him. We’ll see what he does when it counts. That’s when you’re really going to love the guy. He gets out here and makes some things happen on the field, then we’re really going to love him. If not, we ain’t going to like him as much. So let’s wait and see. Let’s wait and see.”
Blount certainly brings a different look to the New England backfield — at 247 pounds, he’s one of the biggest backs the Patriots have had in recent memory. Fears was coy when asked if he’s ever had a back that big before, hinting that a certain No. 28 was never at 247 pounds, but was certainly in the neighborhood.
“He was about that, wasn’t he? He wasn’t listed there, but there were many a time when Corey was … he got up there pretty good,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know if he was ever 247, but he was a big back, yeah. Antowain [Smith] was a big back. Not quite 240, but he was a big back also that we’ve had.
“I’m not going to project on what [Blount will] do out there, but I know what I’d like to see him do,” he added. “We’ll see. We’ll wait and see.”