Rhamondre Stevenson carried a pretty sizable load for the New England Patriots in 2022. He's preparing himself for even more work out of the backfield this coming season.
With de facto 2022 Patriots starter Damien Harris joining the rival Bills as a free agent, Stevenson is now fully in the captain's chair at running back. He not only plans to take on a heavier workload on the field, but he also plans to absorb the bulk of the leadership quotient attached to that increased role.
"That's what's being asked of me right now," Stevenson told reporters on Tuesday, via the Boston Herald. "I'm trying to take that step. It's still early, but I'm trying to take that step to be a leader."
Harris started more games (nine) than Stevenson (seven) did a year ago, but Stevenson was the one most often finishing games. He logged 279 touches last season in 17 appearances, compared to Harris' 123 touches in 11 games.
With few clear options behind Stevenson -- and with the Patriots' pass game coming off a rough season -- the expectation is that Stevenson's volume of touches could grow.
Veteran Ty Montgomery is one option to spell Stevenson. Patriots 2022 draft picks Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris are two other options. There's also free-agent signing James Robinson, who had a great rookie season in Jacksonville but who has faded since.
As the Patriots are about to embark on their June mandatory minicamp next, this is the time of year when Stevenson can build up his stamina, knowing what lies ahead.
"Just getting in shape again, just getting my wind back," Stevenson said. "Damien's out of here now so I'm kind of the guy, so just trying to make sure I'm ready for the end of the season."
Only three Patriots players in the Bill Belichick era have topped 300 touches in a season -- Antowain Smith in 2001, Corey Dillon in 2004 and LeGarrette Blount in 2016. But Stevenson figures to be the next in line, health willing. So how is he preparing for the added responsibility?
"I'd just say the same thing I was doing, just more consistency," Stevenson said. "Just doing the same thing every day, just taking care of my body and just trying to be proactive. …
"It's just a long season. You just have to mentally prepare for that long season. That's the best thing you can do, just mentally prepare, just know that it's a 17-game season and have to get after it."