Olympic sprinter Demps signs with Patriots

Posted Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:02 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated Friday, Aug. 17 at 10 p.m. ET

The Patriots have signed ex-Florida RB-RS Jeff Demps, the team announced Friday evening.

Demps won a silver medal in this year's Olympics with the U.S. He ran one leg of the 400-meter relay team that was beaten by Jamaica and Usain Bolt.

Several teams were interested in the former Florida star's services after he declared his interest in playing football again once the Olympic Games were over. The Buccaneers and Jets had been mentioned as teams with strong interest.

Demps, 22, had a standout career with the Gators with 2,470 career rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in four seasons, but he did not attend any pre-draft all-star games or take part in NFL workouts this offseason so he could focus on track.

With that out of the way, Demps joins a talented and deep Patriots roster, but one that could use a dose of speed — likely in the return game. When asked Thursday about his team's performance in recent seasons on kickoff returns, head coach Bill Belichick said, "We didn’t return them very well in any conditions at any time (last season) and still haven’t based on the New Orleans (preseason) game. That’s obviously an area that we can improve in, that we have worked hard in but based on the results still need to do a lot more work on."

When asked more Thursday about Demps, Belichick played mostly coy — especially about Demps' world-class speed.

"I mean I think it’s pretty well documented," he said. "I don’t know. Yeah, he’s a running back, he’s returned kicks, he’s fast. I’m sure you can dig that out."

The way we see it

Draft expert Nolan Nawrocki, in his pre-draft analysis, says that Demps possesses "turbo speed" and is a "threat to go the distance" any time he touches the ball. On the negative side, Nawrocki writes that Demps has "very small hands" and "limited run strength" and that he might "lack the mental and physical toughness" to make it. We envision Demps having his biggest impact on kickoffs while being slowly worked into the RB rotation, although a recent injury to Stevan Ridley has thinned the Pats' depth there.