Shane Vereen's work to increase over the week; fantasy relevance could come soon

Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

The Patriots running back could return to action as soon as Monday. We break down the fantasy implications.

New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen is expected to have his practice workload increase over the course of the week, according to the Boston Herald, as he moves toward his return from injury. Vereen, who has been on the short-term injured reserve since breaking his wrist in Week 1, could return as early as Monday night's game against the Carolina Panthers.

Vereen had a huge game in the season-opener, rushing for 101 yards on 14 carries, and adding 58 receiving yards on seven receptions. Running back Stevan Ridley fumbled in that season-opener, and that, combined with Vereen's big game, led to speculation that Vereen would overtake Ridley as the team's No. 1 running back, until Vereen's injury curtailed that talk.

Fantasy impact: Ridley has improved as the season has progressed, with almost 90 yards a game in his last four outings and six touchdowns in that time. Vereen's return, whenever it is, is unlikely to make a big difference in Ridley's usage. It will, however, relegate backup running backs Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount to fantasy-afterthoughts, as there are unlikely to be enough touches to go around.

Vereen is likely a low-end flex quality whenever he does return, even if it is this Monday. However, if there is no announcement either way by Sunday -- if Vereen is listed as doubtful or a game-time decision -- fantasy owners should have a different starter in place, because there is no guarantee Vereen will make his return.

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