Shane Vereen finds a niche and just runs with it

FOXBORO — Shane Vereen will probably never be the so-called “bell-cow back” for the Patriots. He knows he fits a niche in the offense that doesn’t lend itself to him carrying the ball 20-plus times a game.

In fact, Vereen has had 10 or more rushing attempts in a game just five times in his career.

Going forward, Vereen will be what he’ll always be on this team — a big-play threat out of the backfield as a receiver and a rusher who tends to be more adept at running outside the tackles than between them.

Last Sunday’s win over the Vikings was typical: Vereen was effective in his limited touches (six carries for 40 yards), but when it came time for the Patriots to wear down the defense and put away a tired opponent, the offense turned to Stevan Ridley (25 carries, 101 yards and a touchdown).

That’s how it has been for Vereen ever since he came to New England as a second-round pick in the 2011 draft. And although it may be difficult to get into a rhythm with so few carries, he’s used to it.

“I would say it’s a little tough, but I’ve been doing it now for three, this is my fourth season, so it’s kind of second nature to me now,” Vereen said.

Quarterback Tom Brady appreciates Vereen’s skill-set.

“He does everything that we ask of him,” Brady said. “It’s really unique to find someone who runs the way he runs and also catch the ball out of the backfield. So he’s involved in really all aspects of the offense — catching the ball out of the backfield, blitz pickup. He’s matured so much, so he understands how to set up blocks, how to get open on routes. He’s a great all-around player.”

Although the two players aren’t necessarily similar physically, Vereen’s ability to handle multiple responsibilities invites comparisons to former Patriots back Kevin Faulk.

“The role that (Vereen) plays is such a big role for our team, a similar role to what Kevin (Faulk) played — (Vereen) just plays it a little differently,” Brady said. “But both are very dependable and it’s great playing with them.”

So is Vereen OK with the number of touches he gets in the offense?

“Whatever they need me, that’s what I’d like to do,” he said. “Regardless, I’m happy to be out there. I’m happy to contribute. The best thing is that the team wins.”

As long as that keeps happening, don’t expect his role to change, either.