|Stevan Ridley wants to be the man, but knows he has to earn it||06.12.12 at 7:03 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots locker room was ecstatic after their 45-10 thrashing of the Broncos in last season’s divisional playoff round. The maligned defense put together a staunch effort and the offense scored at will.
Still, despite the win, rookie running back Stevan Ridley sat at his locker confounded and upset, not at anyone else, but just himself. It was the second straight week the 23-year-old had fumbled, and he knew the coaching staff wouldn’t be inclined to give him opportunities during the rest of New England’s playoff run due to his ball security issues.
“As a running back, you never want to see the ball on the ground,” Ridley said following the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. ” You can either hang your head on it, or you can move forward and continue to be a better player. That’s what I have to do. That was last year, it’s a new year, I’m not looking back. All I’m going to do is look at what’s in front of me, try to be a better player, and not make the same mistakes.”
The late-season fumbling woes aside, Ridley’s rookie season is best described as enticing. He showed spurts of power and breakaway speed, hit the hole hard, and developed nicely without the benefit of a normal training camp because of the lockout. The departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Bengals during the offseason created an opening for the 23-year-old to grasp the spot as the Patriots primary ball carrier. The catch is Green-Ellis’ enduring legacy being that he never fumbled the football in over 500 rushing attempts in his time with the Patriots.
“You can’t make excuses for the ball being on the ground,” Ridley said. “[Green-Ellis] was very fortunate to have the career he had. But that’s what I learned from him, to hold onto the ball, squeeze it high and tight, and bring it back to the huddle every play.
“I wouldn’t say it’s my time, because I’m not the coach,” Ridley continued. “I can’t make that call, but it’s my time to go out there and work hard, I know that. I’m going to have go out there and bust it everyday if I want to see the playing field.”
The Patriots notoriously use the passing game to set up the running attack, and often feature multiple running backs. The team filled the void left by Green-Ellis with veteran Colts running back Joseph Addai. Ridley and Addai both went to LSU and have trained with one another previous offseasons in Baton Rouge. While Ridley is chomping at the bit to become New England’s lead rusher, he also values strength in numbers approach the Patriots utilize, and realizes he can learn a great deal from Addai.
“It’s wide open,” Ridley said. “We’re not the ones who say who it’s going to be. We’re not really focused on who’s going to be the guy. We’re just trying to help each other out and learn together. One person is not going to get it done all the way through the season, and we know that, so we have to be able to depend on everybody.
“To have this time with [Addai], like I had with [Kevin Faulk], I’m going to cherish that, and try to learn everything I can from him. He’s an awesome guy, he’s a leader, somebody who has seen it all. He’s blocked for Peyton Manning, he’s run the ball, and he’s a well-rounded back. Joe is very willing to teach, he’s a vocal guy and open guy.”
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