|". . . my time is going to come. Right now is not my time," says Laurence Maroney. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
FOXBOROUGH - Normally jovial and playful in the Patriots' locker room, second-year running back Laurence Maroney was more reserved yesterday. So it goes when asked to answer some unpleasant questions.
Why didn't he play more in last Sunday night's victory over the Bills? Is his foot injured? Is he frustrated?
Normally quick with a joke, Maroney took queries in a business-like fashion. First and foremost, he touched on his health.
"Everyone asks, 'Is he injured?' and the answer is 'No, I'm not injured,' " Maroney said.
The question, then, is why was Maroney limited to just four series against the Bills, finishing with just carries for 19 yards and one touchdown?
The Patriots announced at the start of the second half against the Bills that Maroney had a foot injury and his return was probable. Yet he never came back.
Coach Bill Belichick indicated on WEEI this week that Maroney had an X-ray, possibly on his foot, at halftime. Maroney later returned to the sideline in the second half and headed toward the huddle as if he was going to play on one snap before he was called back to the sideline.
In retrospect, it appears the Patriots, who were leading, 42-7, after their first series of the second half, simply decided to play it safe with Maroney.
The 22-year-old Maroney, who was not listed on the injury report yesterday, also made it a point to note the difference between being hurt and injured.
"Injured means you're out. Hurt means you're hurt, but maybe you can keep going," he said. "Like I said, I'm not injured."
Despite his up-and-down season, Maroney insists he's not frustrated. He has a team-high 436 rushing yards on 95 carries (4.6-yard average), numbers that pale in comparison to fellow 2006 first-round draft pick Joseph Addai in Indianapolis (832 yards, 192 carries, 4.3 average).
"I feel like my time is going to come. Right now is not my time and I'm just going to play the role they need me to play," Maroney said. "I'm a team player. As long as we win, I'm all right."
Yet Maroney seems bothered by the suggestion that he dances too much behind the line of scrimmage. Although it might have appeared that way in last Sunday's win, he has evidence to the contrary.
Maroney's rushes went for 6, minus-2, 2, 9, 4, and 0 yards against the Bills.
The 6-yard run - which came in the first quarter and resulted in his first touchdown of the season - was a quick-hitting dive in which he exploded up the middle untouched, benefiting from terrific combination blocks from center Dan Koppen and guards Logan Mankins and Russ Hochstein.
On his next attempt, a 2-yard loss, tight end Kyle Brady missed his block off the left side of the line, allowing middle linebacker John DiGiorgio an unimpeded path to hammer Maroney, who had lined up 8 yards behind quarterback Tom Brady. Maroney didn't have a chance on the play.
The 2-yard run was a stalemate at the line of scrimmage, while the 9-yarder came on Maroney's only run behind a lead-blocking fullback, as the Patriots overpowered the Bills on the right side.
Maroney's final two runs came out of the shotgun, not his specialty because he doesn't generate much straight-ahead momentum to capitalize on his speed. Still, he made something out of nothing on his 4-yard jaunt, surging past defensive end Chris Kelsay, who was unblocked. The final run, for no gain, appeared to be a case in which Maroney's timing was off with Brady on the handoff.
So, all in all, it wasn't a downer of a performance except for the fact Maroney's playing time was limited.
Teammates apparently have noticed, as a package of diapers was seen at Maroney's locker yesterday, which some reporters deduced were teammates ribbing him about the caution in which he was being utilized.
Asked if the lack of action could have been a result of the coaching staff being unhappy with his performance - perhaps in pass protection - Maroney indicated he doesn't believe that to be the case.
"I felt like I was making good reads, good runs," he said.
So, for now, Maroney is taking it all in stride, waiting for his time to shine.
"In this game, you just have to be patient," he said. "I'm going to be patient."
Mike Reiss can be reached at email@example.com.