A collection of curious reports have surfaced over the past few days regarding oft-injured Patriots running back Laurence Maroney.
It hasn't been a smooth ride for Maroney since the Patriots selected him in the first round of 2006. There was even a box of diapers spotted in his locker at one point in 2007, rumored to be a prank by some of the other players to let him know it was time for LoMo, a.k.a. Kool Aid, to grow up.
Maroney has always been the affable sort, appearing as the Patriots' representative in various events and commercials. He's never shied away from the camera like he shied away from contact.
It appeared he had turned a corner late in 2007 when he began to run with authority, leading NFL Films' cameras to even pick up Patriots owner Robert Kraft mention, "He's finally running hard."
Maroney was huge in the AFC Championship Game against the Chargers, running for a game-high 122 yards and a touchdown. That included eight carries on the final drive for 37 yards that sealed the win for the Pats.
It looked like Maroney was primed for a breakout 2008 season.
However, after a strong performance against Kansas City in the 2008 opener, Maroney reverted back to his old dancing-behind-the line, injury-prone ways.
After the bye week, Maroney returned against the 49ers but again had a lackluster performance, highlighted by a play where he ducked out of bounds short of a first down to avoid contact with San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis.
It was probably safe to assume that Maroney was still hurting, not wanting to lower his injured shoulder and take on one of the hardest hitters in the NFL.
That's when things started to get a little weird, beginning with this slightly strange interview in the week leading up to the San Diego game.
More than a few Patriots fans sensed that something was off with Maroney.
Pats Beat Reporter Mike Reiss seemed to agree in his mailbag this week. When asked if he thought Maroney's mind was "somewhere else besides on football" based on the earlier interview, Reiss responded:
I don't know what to make of Maroney's comments. From talking to Maroney the last two-plus years, he's a likable guy, sort of a fun-loving, good-natured type, the type of person anyone would like to see succeed. He seems troubled. For his well-being, I hope it's simply a shoulder injury and nothing else.
Maroney also missed the game against the San Diego, a game in which Sammy Morris was asked to carry the load and was unable to do so.
Things got a little bit more interesting today when Reiss reported the following from the Patriots locker room:
It did not look like running back Laurence Maroney had been in the locker room at all, as his travel luggage was there, and his chair remained folded up in his locker. [UPDATE: I am told Maroney was spotted walking through the locker room prior to my arrival.]
Hopefully Maroney is simply suffering from another frustrating injury and that's all. But with what we've seen over the past couple weeks, he will definitely be a player to keep an eye on.
Mike Dussault is the Patriots Community Leader at Bleacher Report, and also a contributor at BostonSportz.com. His Patriots blog can be viewed here and he can be contacted at PatriotsPropaganda@gmail.com.