By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As soon as the Patriots traded fourth-year running back Sony Michel to the Rams earlier this week, it felt safe to assume the coaching staff really liked what it saw in rookie Rhamondre Stevenson.READ MORE: Bill Belichick Turns Down Opportunity To Respond To Alex Guerrero: 'On Monday We'll Get To Next Week'
With Damien Harris set to be the lead back, and James White slotted in his third-down/pass-catching role, and J.J. Taylor potentially in line for a dual-threat type of role, the trade of Michel opened the door for Stevenson to contribute in the running game immediately — something that’s not always or even often guaranteed to rookie running backs on Bill Belichick’s team.
While that was the view from the outside, Stevenson said Friday that he didn’t view the trade quite the same way.
“Honestly I try not to even get into the business side of that or anything. I’m here. If he was here, I would still be working as hard as I would work after whatever happened and whatnot,” Stevenson said over Zoom on Friday. “So I don’t think that really changes anything for me. I just know that I’ve got to work hard — and I wouldn’t even say harder or anything like that. You gotta work hard and just stay focused on the task at hand.”
Even though Stevenson and Michel were teammates for just four months, Stevenson said the bond he forged with Michel will be a lasting one.
“Yeah, he’s been a mentor for me while he was here, and I don’t think that’s gonna change for us,” Stevenson said.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) August 24, 2021READ MORE: Fantasy Football Start Or Sit Week 3: Is Daniel Jones Poised For A Big Week?
While the rookie running back is focused on daily improvement in his own game, he did share that he’s feeling accomplished as he nears the end of his first NFL training camp. Considering running backs coach Ivan Fears told the media last week that Stevenson’s camp began with a failed conditioning test, Stevenson’s clearly come a long way in a short time.
“I would definitely say just a milestone reached. I dreamed about playing in the NFL and to be in my training camp — closer to the end of it than the beginning — it’s just a great feeling. I kind of feel accomplished, things like that,” Stevenson said. “But I just know I got a lot more work to do. But it’s a great feeling, knowing I’ve almost made it through my first training camp.”
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Rhamondre Stevenson this preseason
💥 140 rushing yards after contact (1st)
💥 12 forced missed tackles (1st)
A role just opened up on the Patriots 👀 pic.twitter.com/QUW8WTTd5Y
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 25, 2021
In two preseason games thus far, Stevenson has rushed for 194 yards and four touchdowns, leading the NFL in both categories. Only one other running back has scored more than one rushing touchdown (Trey Ragas, 2), and the second-leading rusher (Mekhi Sargent) has 136 yards, 55 fewer than Stevenson.