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Third-stringer Shane Vereen stars for Patriots

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Third-stringer Shane Vereen stars for Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Shane Vereen went from anonymous backup to the spotlight for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

A third-string running back, Vereen became essential in New England's offense after Danny Woodhead was injured on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage. While Stevan Ridley, a 1,000-yard rusher, maintained the lead role, Vereen was the guy getting into the end zone.

Three times, in fact.

``Shane had a great game, just a huge growing-up moment for him, very special,'' Tom Brady said after Vereen gained 124 total yards in a 41-28 divisional-round win over Houston.

Vereen gained 400 yards during the season, including 251 on the ground and 149 in the air. His workload was limited and to expect the second-year back from California to have a big impact in the playoffs was foolhardy.

Yet there he was, catching TD passes of 8 and 33 yards from Brady and running in for a 1-yard score. The 33-yarder featured a difficult over-the-shoulder grab along the left sideline.

``I don't come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play,'' Vereen said. ``I come into the game ready to go, and if my number is called, I do my best for the team.''

Vereen took advantage and had a huge game, but he isn't even the most famous person in his family. Actor, singer and dancer Ben Vereen is Shane's father's cousin.

New England (13-4) couldn't have gotten to yet another AFC championship game without someone stepping up when Woodhead hurt his thumb, then star tight end Rob Gronkowski reinjured his left forearm eight offensive plays into the game.

``We hate to lose Woody,'' said Vereen, a second-round draft pick in 2011. ``He is such a key part of our offense, but at the same time all of the running backs hold ourselves accountable to be able to step up when somebody does go down.''

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John Wall takes another step in rehab, facing teammates in practice

John Wall takes another step in rehab, facing teammates in practice

WASHINGTON -- The steady progress continues for John Wall in his rehab from a ruptured left Achilles tendon, as the Wizards point guard is now facing teammates in 4-on-4 drills at practice.

Head coach Scott Brooks described the games as "controlled," noting they were not full-speed or with contact and featured a 10-second shot clock. But that remains a notable step in his road back after he had previously been playing mostly against player development coaches.

"He practiced for the whole practice. He looked great," Brooks said. "There is still a ways to go. But his energy, his enthusiasm, his strength [looks good]. His shot looks better."

Wall, 29, hasn't played in a game since Dec. 26 of 2018. He had surgery on his Achilles on Feb. 12, 2019. He is currently over 11 months into what is typically an 11-to-15 month recovery.

Brooks, though, makes a point to couch positive updates about Wall with patience. The team has indicated he may not play at all this season.

"I don't know if he plays this year," Brooks said. "We can be patient and we're going to be patient because we need him to be right for a lot of years. This is his career and we know how serious that injury is. He's taking it serious."

Part of the equation is the financial commitment the Wizards have made in Wall. He is due roughly $131.5 million over the next three seasons. They want to make sure he is good to go not just for this year, but that he can be effective for the remainder of his contract.

According to Brooks, even having Wall back to this level has added some positive energy to the Wizards' organization.

"I know the excitement is around because he's around and he's looking [good]," Brooks said. "When he comes back, he's going to be the John Wall we all love."

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Houston QB D'Eriq King reportedly transfers to Miami over Maryland

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Houston QB D'Eriq King reportedly transfers to Miami over Maryland

Just one week after announcing that he had entered the NCAA transfer portal, University of Houston QB D'Eriq King has reportedly chosen Miami over Maryland.

The Athletic's Hurricanes beat writer Manny Navarro reports that King has informed Canes coaches of his decision and intent to start classes Tuesday, Jan. 21. 

At the same time, Mark Berman of Fox26 reported that King has not made a final decision but did indeed like Miami.

 

King was scheduled to visit Miami Friday night and Maryland on Saturday, but Jeff Ermann of InsideMDSports reports that King may have cancelled his visit to second-year head coach Mike Locksley and company last minute after liking Miami. Berman reports that King is still "planning" on visiting College Park.

The Terps struggled to finish 3-9 with Josh Jackson and Tyrell Pigrome under center, combining for 16 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Under first-year head coach Manny Diaz, Miami went 6-7 over 2019.

King redshirted this season after playing the maximum four games allowed under new NCAA rules in order to preserve eligibility and transfer for  his senior season. In those four games, King tallied 663 passing yards and six touchdowns. 

The sought-after QB is also just one of three in FBS history that have recorded at least 35 passing touchdowns and 13 rushing touchdowns in a single season.

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