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Vereen's health is key to Giants run game


RB Shane Vereen updated his status after Monday's practice:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shane Vereen was in a much better mood today than he had been for the last week or so.

After missing or being limited in several practices due to lower leg soreness, Vereen returned to today's training camp workout without limitations. He participated in all individual drills and several team periods.

"I hate it when I have to sit out," Vereen said. "I have been through a lot of training camps and sometimes I wake up and want nothing to do with it. But I am a much happier person when I am practicing and involved with the team and getting better and working on my craft than I am without. I like being with the team and getting days off when coach gives us days off."

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Vereen is particularly sensitive to playing and practice time after missing so much of it in 2016. He tore his triceps against Washington on Sept. 25 and was placed on injured reserve. Vereen missed nine games before he was activated on Dec. 10. But in his second game back, against Detroit, he re-injured his triceps and was again placed on I.R., this time for good.

Vereen's total of five games were his fewest since he played five as a rookie with New England in 2011. He is looking forward to the Giants' preseason opener Friday night against Pittsburgh more than most seven-year veterans probably would be.

"I definitely want to get back in the rhythm of things," he said, "the speed of the game, kind of just getting my feet wet with that. I've been doing this for a while, and the start of preseason is just about getting ready to go."

When Vereen is healthy, he helps make the Giants' offense go. One of the league's best third-down backs, he caught 59 passes and scored four touchdowns in his first Giants season in 2015. He also rushed for 260 yards. Last year, he averaged 4.8 yards a carry in his limited appearances.

"Ever since I could remember: high school, college, I've always been held to the role of making one guy miss, have to make the first guy miss," Vereen said. "I think most backs in this league go by that rule. Breaking tackles is what leads to big plays. Being able to be elusive, get open and do what you're asked to do. That's just part of my role."

Another part is new this year: mentoring the other runners as the senior back on the team. During his first two Giants seasons, that designation belonged to the since-departed Rashad Jennings. Now, with Shaun Draughn on the active/PUP list, fourth-year pro Orleans Darkwa is closest to Vereen in experience. Starter Paul Perkins is entering his second season, and Wayne Gallman is a rookie.

"It's kind of weird," Vereen said. "For the longest time, I looked at myself as being the young guy looking up. Now, I know I have to speak up a little more and help them in the ways that I was helped when I was a young guy entering the league."

It's all part of being a camp veteran. Vereen has learned to appreciate the benefits of training camp.

"It's the one time of the year where I don't have to answer my phone, I don't have to talk to anybody," he said. "I can focus on football and block everything out. These are the dog days, these are the times of year where you really see improvement in your game and fundamentals."

Which is another reason Vereen was so happy today.

"Whenever I am not there, I always feel like I am missing out on a little bit," he said. "I just try to get a little bit better each and every day. And those days where I am not able to get better on the field, I've got to find ways to get better off the field."

He'll be the first to tell you, it's much more fun on the field.

*Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (ankle) did individual drills but did not participate in practice.

"I didn't see any noticeable limp or anything like that," coach Ben McAdoo said. "He was moving around good, some change in direction, looked fine." McAdoo said he'd be open to playing Shepard vs. Pittsburgh, "if he's ready to go."

Wide receiver Tavarres King also sat out with an ankle injury.

*Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, who has spent most of his career at right guard or tackle, lined up at left guard in the two-minute drill. "It was fun," he said.

*Offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker and wide receiver Kevin Snead left practice early.

*Several members of the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl XLII championship team watched practice, including Amani Toomer, Lawrence Tynes, Barry Cofield, Corey Webster and Dave Tollefson. They received warm greetings from the 2007 players who are with the team and attend every practice, or those who visit frequently, including David Tyree, Antonio Pierce and David Diehl.

View the best photos from Giants Training Camp practice

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