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Track a priority for Jeff Demps in 2013

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  March 25, 2013 07:49 AM

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Eight months ago, the Patriots lured Olympian and versatile football player Jeff Demps to New England, signing him to a three-year contract, ostensibly to serve as the team's kick returner.

But Demps was placed on injured reserve with a leg injury not long after he was signed, and he didn't play a single regular-season snap.

And it sounds like he might not be suiting up for the Patriots again any time soon.

In a recent interview with Sports Talk Florida, Demps and fellow Olympic track and field medalist Justin Gatlin were asked about trying to be two-sport athletes – track and football. Gatlin unsuccessfully tried to make it in the NFL, participating in the Buccaneers' rookie camp in 2007, while he was serving a four-year track ban for doping.

It looked like things would be different for Demps after singing with the Patriots ... except that a few weeks ago he informed them that he wanted to return to the track.

Demps was asked about trying to be a two-sport athlete, but seems less than committed to returning to football.

"If I'm not able to do football anymore, it's kind of like I'm opening up a different chapter in my life if it's on the track and field side," he said. "I'd be a rookie in the (running) game, I still have a lot to learn, even though I did it four years in college and throughout high school but I still haven't seen or ran with any of the big name guys or the top guys in the world, so I'm looking forward to it; I'm definitely looking forward to it."

The host asked Demps how he'd approach Bill Belichick about his choice:

"'Listen coach, I want to do both but in order for me to get where I want to be on the track and field side, it will take a full year of preparation, and after the (track) season, if you guys are willing to let me come back probably midseason and work out and train and get ready for the season I'll be able to do that, but if not then I guess I'll focus on running,'" Demps said.

If he were to participate in the full track and field schedule, Demps might miss up to a handful of games in the NFL season.

At the league meetings last week, Belichick was asked about Demps and how his concentrating on track would affect his standing with New England, but Belichick didn't give much of an indication.

‘"Well, we’ll deal with each player individually with their specific situations and circumstances, whatever they happen to be ... Demps may have some circumstances. Players with injuries have different circumstances," he said. "We'll deal with them all individually. In the end, we try to do the best we can, what’s best for the team. Same as we always do."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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