Danny Vitale hopes to fill “some pretty dang big shoes” at fullback for Patriots

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When fullback James Develin announced his retirement this offseason, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called him “one of the most appreciated and respected players” that he’s had on the roster since he became the coach in New England.

That level of appreciation and respect is felt by one of the players trying to take over at fullback this season. Danny Vitale signed with the Patriots as a free agent in March and spoke to reporters on a conference call on Thursday.

Vitale said that “seeing all the amazing things” that Develin did for the Patriots made it an enticing offer and that he’s aware of how much he’d have to do to have a similar impact on the team.

“It’s definitely some pretty dang big shoes to fill,” Vitale said. “James is a hell of a player. I’ve enjoyed watching him, really since I got into the league now. He was really a role model at the position, which as a fullback, a lot of people don’t typically notice how important that role can be. I think it was pretty clear how important James was to this Patriot team over the last however many years. Definitely have some really big shoes to fill, but I’m really looking forward to that opportunity, as well as working with a lot of the other guys. So, yeah, it will be fun.”

Vitale set career highs for snaps, catches and receiving yards while getting his first regular season carry for the Packers last season.