Dan Vitale vying to fill James Develin's 'pretty dang big shoes'

An offseason of seismic alterations has been more about losses rather than additions for the Patriots.

Tom Brady's name has been front and center, of course, but plenty more Pats such as Jaime Collins, Kyle Van Noy and Stephen Gostkowski have moved on. So too has fullback James Develin, who retired.

While there are a plethora of vacancies to be filled, former Packers fullback Dan Vitale knows exactly why he's in New England and it's to succeed Develin and aid the Patriots offense in any way possible.

"It's definitely some pretty dang big shoes to fill," Vitale told reporters on Thursday, via Boston.com’s Deyscha Smith. "James was a hell-of-a player, I've enjoyed watching him, really since I got in the league now and he was really a role model at the position. Fullback, a lot of people don't typically noticed how important that role can be and I think it was pretty clear how important James really was to this Patriots team over the last how ever many years. I definitely have some big shoes to fill but I'm really looking forward to the opportunity as well, working with a lot of the other guys."

A one-time Pro Bowler whose last season was played when he was 31, Develin was reliable and versatile during his eight-year tenure with the Patriots.

Vitale, 26, is on the move again, however. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Buccaneers in 2016. Cut by the Bucs and then the Bills, Vitale's career began in earnest with the Browns in 2016. After two years in Cleveland, he moved on to Green Bay and now Vitale's on to New England.

Finding a roster as a fullback isn't the easiest of endeavors in the modern NFL, but Vitale's done well in that regard and played in 15 games last season for the NFC North champion Packers.

"There's only a handful of teams in the league that use fullbacks nowadays," Vitale said. "Obviously there's been a little bit of a resurgence around the league with the success that a lot of teams have had. That definitely plays into it, we only have a couple of options when it comes to that. Seeing all the amazing things that James Develin did over the last couple of years, that's enticing as a fullback."

Though Vitale's aspirations and intentions of replacing Develin are clear, his path to do so is not.

He's likely to get plenty of competition from Jakob Johnson at fullback, along with tight ends Matt LaCosse, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Jake Burt and others.

"I look forward to pushing those younger guys like Jakob, like Dalton (Keene), like Jake Burt -- anybody really; Devin (Asiasi), anybody who might be in that role being able to really push each other, help each other learn," Vitale said, via the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan. "We're all kind of in the same position right now, obviously, with the virtual meetings and not being able to get on the field. So, just pushing each other. I don't think you put any pressure on each other to really take one's job or anything like that."

With just 16 touches in his 44 career games, Vitale knows all about doing the little things, carrying out the dirty work and contributing every which way. In many ways, that's the Patriot Way and why he might force his way into filling Develin's shoes.

"When I was in Tampa Bay, I was more of a tight end, wing-type of player. In Cleveland, I was kind of a hand-in-the-ground, bruising type fullback. And then in my time in Green Bay, I did a little bit of both. I was kind of all over the field," Vitale said. "(I) learn as much as I can for as many spots as I can. So whenever they need somebody to step in, I can fill that role."

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