FOXBOROUGH — This week has been strange, Shane Vereen admits. Getting ready to face the team he called home for four years, playing against so many friends and former teammates, will be a different experience.
"For four years that's what you practiced against, that's what you saw every day, and now we're actually preparing to play them in a real game," Vereen said Wednesday, during a conference call with Patriots media. "Kind of fun, though."
Vereen capped off his four-year stint with the Patriots by winning a Super Bowl ring. One month later, after becoming an unrestricted free agent, the running back signed a three-year, $12.3 million deal with the Giants.
The Giants (5-4) lead the NFC East, and will host the Patriots (8-0) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Vereen, who was a second-round pick by the Patriots in the 2011 NFL Draft, was asked if there have been any moments of regret, of wishing he were still a member of the team that has its sights set on winning back-to-back championships.
"No, I can't say that there has been. There have been times where I miss the guys, and so I'll call them or text them, but I still feel like I made the right decision for myself, for my family," Vereen said. "At the end of the day, it's a business, and you have to do what's right for you."
He's being used by the Giants much the same way he was featured by the Patriots, as a self-described "offspeed-type back, catching the ball out of the backfield." With 34 receptions through nine games — he has caught eight passes in a game three times — he's on pace to set career highs for catches and yards. He's listed third on the running back depth chart behind Rashad Jennings and former Boston College standout Andre Williams, and has 174 rushing yards in a limited number (41) of carries. All three of his touchdowns have been on receptions.
Still, Vereen is making an impact on his new team.
"I've just been impressed with his football awareness, his knowledge, and his feel for route running," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning. "He just has a natural feel, how to get open, where the lanes are, where the openings are, and has been impressive with his playmaking ability and what he can do. Running the football, catching the football, he's an impressive football player."
Patriots fans know that. So, too, his former teammates.
"Shane's a great third-down back, a great catch-and-run back. He can do it all," said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. "It'll be fun, though. It'll be fun tackling him. In practice I couldn't hit him. This year it's a little different."
One would think that Vereen, with his knowledge of the Patriots offense, defense, personnel, and plays, would be a popular man at Giants headquarters this week, with coaches and current teammates asking all about his former team. Vereen, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin, said that hasn't been the case.
"I don't really think anybody has spent a whole lot of time asking Vereen anything, to be honest with you," Coughlin said.
It wouldn't help if they did, Vereen hinted.
"So much of the communication and stuff has changed, I don't really think that I would be much of an asset," Vereen said. "Each week, each season, they put so much new stuff in. It's an ever-changing type of thing, so I don't even know how much my information would even help."
We'll find out Sunday, when Vereen, who faced his younger brother in a game last season against the Bears, finally discovers what it's like to play against, instead of for, the Patriots.
"I think they're going to play Sunday just the way they play every Sunday: Hard, fast, physical, and trying to win, obviously," Vereen said. "I wouldn't expect anything less than that."