FOXBOROUGH - Whatever the "issues" that Laurence Maroney is dealing with, the Patriots didn't think they could be resolved this season, because yesterday the team put the third-year running back on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, ending his season.
Maroney finishes the season with 93 yards on 28 rushes in three games. Without him, the Patriots' remaining running backs are Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis, fullback Heath Evans, and LaMont Jordan, who sat out last night's game against the Denver Broncos with a right calf injury. Morris also left last night's game with a knee injury, after rushing for 138 yards in the first half.
Although Maroney sat out the 30-10 loss to the Chargers Oct. 12 and had not practiced in preparation for last night's game, the move still came as somewhat of a surprise.
Maroney injured his shoulder against the Jets Sept. 14 and sat out the next week against the Dolphins. He returned following the bye week against the 49ers and practiced Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, when the Patriots were at San Jose State preparing for the Chargers game.
But on Oct. 10, Maroney had an odd question-and-answer session with reporters in which he was asked if the shoulder had hampered him during a disappointing performance against the 49ers, when he had 10 carries for 26 yards and looked tentative.
Maroney did not directly answer questions about the shoulder, but said, "Hey, I have my issues. There are reasons I'd rather not speak about, but there are reasons."
When asked about the shoulder injury during the bye week, Maroney said it was a "little, minor setback."
Injuries have been an issue for Maroney since he entered the league as a first-round pick of the Patriots (21st overall) in 2006.
In his rookie season, Maroney missed two games with what was reported as a rib injury, then had offseason shoulder surgery, which sidelined him for the start of training camp the following season.
Last season, Maroney missed three games with a groin injury, but was strong down the stretch, closing the season with four 100-yard rushing performances in the final six games of the season, including the three postseason games.
Harrison carted offThe announcement came over the public address system after the third quarter: "Rodney Harrison has a knee injury and will not return."
The declaration was meant for the Patriots' 41-7 win over the Broncos, but it's possible that Harrison may have played his last game as a Patriot. He suffered the right knee injury while chasing Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler on the final play of the third quarter.
Cutler rolled out to his right and Harrison came up to tackle him, and when Cutler made a cut, Harrison went down.
Harrison, whose contract is up after this season, was down for a while before he hopped on his one good leg onto a cart and was taken to the locker room. He waved to the fans as he was carted off, a la his buddy Junior Seau, when Seau broke his forearm against the Bears in 2006.
He also shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, "What can I do?"
Harrison blew out his knee in the third game of the 2005 season. He returned in 2006 but suffered a broken scapula that caused him to miss six games. In the season finale against the Titans that season he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee on a borderline-legal block by Bobby Wade and missed the Patriots' playoff run.
Last year he was healthy but missed four games because of a suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
"We have to see how it is," said coach Bill Belichick. "It doesn't look too good."
Green-Ellis picks up paceGreen-Ellis, in just his second NFL game, played throughout the second half in place of Morris. Having played just three snaps late in the fourth quarter against San Diego, Green-Ellis finished with 65 yards on 13 carries, with a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He ended up playing 22 snaps.
"I was just happy to go out there and contribute," said Green-Ellis, who began the year on the practice squad and was promoted to the 53-man roster Oct. 11. "I am happy for the team to get a win like this. I was happy to be able to do my part."
The Patriots might need more from Green-Ellis - who initially signed with the team May 2 after going undrafted - in the coming weeks with Maroney done.
Neal back on lineThe Patriots wasted no time activating right guard Stephen Neal off the physically unable to perform list. Neal, who as a result of starting the season on PUP was forced to sit out the first six weeks, returned to practice last week.
The seven-year veteran had been out since suffering a knee injury in the Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound Neal entered last night having played in 55 games as a Patriot, with 52 starts.
The Patriots also promoted second-year cornerback Mike Richardson from the practice squad and released reserve center Dan Connolly.
A sixth-round pick in 2007, Richardson missed all of last season with a thumb injury. He had been on the practice squad for the first seven weeks of the season. He finished with four tackles against the Broncos.