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Starting over: Maroney happy to have new home with Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Laurence Maroney gained both his share of yards and critics in five seasons with the New England Patriots.

He's looking to add more of the former while shedding the latter now that he has joined the Denver Broncos.

"It's always helpful to have a clean slate and start over from the beginning," Maroney said Friday, 48 hours after the Patriots and Broncos swapped draft picks in a package for the running back, who was a 2006 first-round selection. "All I want to do is come out here and help to do anything positive to help the team win."

Maroney has rushed 675 times for 2,799 yards with 25 touchdowns in 52 games since entering the NFL. But with Maroney slipping down the depth chart, the Patriots decided to cut ties and give him the chance for a fresh start.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that while he respected Maroney, "it felt like it was the right time for us to move on," particularly considering the perceived value gained in the trade.

Denver sent a 2011 fourth-round pick for Maroney while also acquiring New England's sixth-rounder next year.

Maroney currently isn't practicing because of a thigh injury, but he's pushing to return next week. He'll fill the short-term void in Denver for a veteran No. 3 back behind starter Knowshon Moreno and backup Correll Buckhalter.

Maroney eventually might push for a regular rotation spot should he re-sign with Denver. Maroney is in the final year of the five-year contract he signed after New England selected him 21st overall in '06. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels earlier this week expressed an interest in Maroney, 25, being a core player beyond this season.

"I would love for this to be a long-term thing," Maroney responded. "You know Denver's going to run the ball. It's one of those things with 'Buck' and 'Kno,' I'm not coming in here trying to take nobody's place. I'm not trying to take nobody's shine. I just want to come in and fit in."

Maroney integrated well into New England's offense, but he didn't always stand out as much as hoped. Injuries were part of the issue. A rotational system by the Patriots also helped keep down his numbers.

Maroney's career-best season was gaining 835 yards in '07.

"He's a talented individual," said Broncos wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, a teammate of Maroney's in New England from 2006 to 2008. "He can definitely run the ball. When he makes his mind up that he wants to hit it, he's a real tough running back."

But there was part of the rub. Critics picked apart Maroney's running style, which he described Friday as "downhill" but many claimed lacked a decisiveness making his move to the hole and/or a willingness to initiate contact for extra yardage.

Maroney fumbled only once in his first 38 games as a pro, but he coughed up four balls during a seven-game stretch last year, spurring even more debate about his reliability.

"They definitely criticized a lot," Maroney said about the skeptics. "But it's OK. I was a first-rounder, so I feel like they were looking at me in a bigger light than everybody else. It's one of those things where it's over now. That was then. Now I'm here with the Broncos and I'm focused on my future here."

Maroney didn't completely dismiss the past.

He acknowledged there were things in New England he wished he could have done differently but now wouldn't have the chance to do. Maroney did say the running back-by-committee approach with the Patriots sometimes made it "hard to get a feel for the game."

"I really wasn't upset about the situation," he explained. "I just tried to find the ways to make the best out of it."

Under slightly different circumstances, Maroney actually might have started his career in Denver. The Broncos, under then-coach Mike Shanahan, had targeted Maroney as a likely No. 1 pick out of the University of Minnesota until the team opted to trade up in the draft to select quarterback Jay Cutler.

Instead, Maroney now is playing under McDaniels, who was the offensive coordinator in New England when he was drafted.

"He's a very talented running back," said Broncos guard Russ Hochstein, a member of the Patriots from 2003 to 2008. "What we get or what we see in the future is completely up to Laurence. Hopefully he pays big dividends down the road."

Maroney's previous ties to McDaniels should make it easier for the running back to quickly assimilate Denver's playbook, which has retained many of the same concepts and terminology.

That is, after the initial shock of the trade finally has worn off.

"It wasn't anything I expected to happen or knew would happen. It kind of came out of thin air and just happened," Maroney said. "So I have to take it and run with it."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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