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Stevan Ridley opens up about his benching: ‘I put myself there’ 12.26.13 at 2:39 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley has bounced back after his benching. (AP)

Stevan Ridley has bounced back after his benching. (AP)

FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley had politely declined to speak about his Dec. 1 benching for the last several weeks. On Thursday, the third-year running back felt it was finally time to open up.

“I just really believe this: God will never put you through anything more than you can handle,” Ridley told reporters in a five-minute session that appeared at times to double as a self-counseling session in front of his locker. “For me, it wasn’t what I wanted, but I know why I got there. It’s not like coach just woke up and decided, ‘Hey, let’s bench Stevan Ridley today.’

“I put myself there. For me, it’s about not letting your past mistakes hold you down. I think life brings you that. You’re going to have adversity, you’re going to have stuff that you’re going to go through. But it’s how you bounce back from it as a person.”

Ridley then made a point of assuring that his four lost fumbles this season, two of which have been returned for touchdowns, hasn’t diminished his love of playing, and playing with fellow running backs Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount.

“I love what I do. I love the sport I play in,” he said. “God put me here. For me, I can’t sit on the past, whether it’s success or whether it’s something I don’t want. For me, it’s focusing on these upcoming weeks because I think if we finish this year the way we want to finish this year, nobody will remember what happened in the past. It’s going to take a total team effort. And it’s not just about me, it’s about the running back room, in general, being strong, whoever the number is back there. Whether it’s Shane, whether it’s Brandon, whether it’s Blount, whether it’s me, whoever it is, we have to be accountable and we have to go out there and be a strong point for this team.”

Ironically, one of those two fumbles came against the Bills in Week 1 in Orchard Park when Ridley’s second-quarter cough-up led to Da’Norris Searcy‘s 74-yard return for a score, allowing the Bills to jump back in game after trailing New England 10-0. He’ll get a chance to make amends on Sunday.

“Hold on tight, that’s all I can tell you because there’s no magic words, there’s not one thing I can do,” Ridley said. “I can’t change the player that I am. I just have to go out there and play ball. Honestly, I just spent a lot of time on my knees praying about it, talking to a lot of the people that I knew are close to me. The bad times will pass, too, just like the good ones. It’s all in the past. These upcoming games we’re trying to be mistake-free and if we can be mistake-free it definitely gives us the upper hand and the better chance of winning the ballgame. And that’s all our coaches are trying to do. There’s no hard feelings. I’m just trying to win every game from here on out, the Bills included, and that’s our team’s focus right now.”

Ridley also said he had conversations recently with two people who gave him words of encouragement as well as an attitude adjustment – Kevin Faulk and his high school coach from Mississippi.

“Faulk met me down in Texas,” Ridley said of the trip to Houston when he was benched. “I got to talk to him for a long time and told me some things I needed to hear. I also got to talk to my high school coach, David King, down in Natchez [Mississippi]. I just talked to the people who I knew had my best interests in mind. Regardless of what it was, I’m just focused on what it’s going to be from here on out.”

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Patriots legend Kevin Faulk will be part of NFL Draft next week in New York 04.17.13 at 3:46 pm ET
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The NFL has announced that former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk will be in New York next week to announce New England’s second-round draft pick at next week’s NFL Draft.

Faulk will be on the scene as part of a leaguewide initiative — which started two years ago — where 32 alumni announce second- and third-round draft choices in the draft. Other players who will be taking part include Atlanta’s Deion Sanders, Tampa Bay’s Warren Sapp and Baltimore’s Jonathan Ogden.

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Great playoff memories from Matt Light, Kevin Faulk and Robert Kraft 01.20.13 at 5:58 pm ET
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Kevin Faulk won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. Today he will serve as an honorary captain with Matt Light. (AP)

Kevin Faulk won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. Today he will serve as an honorary captain with Matt Light. (AP)

FOXBORO — There’s a reason for everything the Patriots do and when they chose Matt Light and Kevin Faulk to be honorary captains for the AFC championship there was a definite message from Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“I just pinched myself coming over here because I was thinking as a fan sitting in the stands we had the privilege of one home playoff game in ’78 which we lost to Houston, and I thought about that,” Kraft said on Friday. “We’re sitting here on the eve – our family has owned this team 19 years and this is our 17th home playoff game. We have a record of 14-2. I was thinking that last year we had our honorary captains, Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, [Tedy] Bruschi and Troy Brown representing the ’96 and ’01 [teams], which were our first two championship games. Our two captains this year have been here for five.

“How do you do this? It’s about having great coaches, but most of all, it’s having great players and we’ve been blessed to have some wonderful players here. I feel a special connection and attachment to both Matt Light and Kevin Faulk, who have been here for five championship games but also our three Super Bowl titles. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Matt Light and Kevin Faulk.”

Light and Faulk will be out for the coin toss moments before the Patriots look for their sixth AFC championship in the last 12 seasons.

What do Faulk and Light think?

“First and foremost I would like to say thank you to Mr. Kraft and the Patriot organization just for the opportunity and honor to be able to be the honorary captain for the AFC Championship game,” Faulk said. “It’s kind of different for me and I am pretty sure it’s the same for Matt because we are used to being on the other side of these in the locker room preparing for the game. But it’s one of those [things] right now where times have changed and we are on the other side of the fence preparing for it in a different way. To have the opportunity to do this and to know the guys that have done it in the past like Ty, Bruschi and Drew, it is an honor.

“You never think about what is going to happen at the end whenever you are done playing football. I never thought I was going to play 13 years in the NFL and to accomplish the accomplishments that we accomplished as a football team and to see this organization still on that same path after so many years, it just speaks volumes for the organization, the players, the coaches and just everybody around here. Once again I would just like say thank you for the opportunity to Mr. Kraft and the Patriots organization.

“So listen, as a fan, I have never seen anything but a win at Gillette Stadium,” Light added. “Besides what some of you know, as a guy that isn’t the biggest sports fan off the field, there is nobody that is going to be in this stadium that is going to be more fired up for this one than this guy right here. Secondly, the guy that is getting this honor alongside of me here, Kevin Faulk – if there is one guy that I can walk out on a field one more time with, it would be the guy that did it on third down and every time he touched the field I felt better at my position. And even if I was getting smoked all game I felt better when he was out there because I knew that he would get rid of it quicker. It is just an awesome thing to be back here and be alongside Kevin Faulk.

“To have the Kraft family honor us in this way, to share in this special moment, at this time of the year, when everybody is amped up, it is truly a blessing. As Kevin said, the time that I have spent here, the time that Kevin has spent here, you look back on it and you say, as an organization, as a coaching staff and as the guys you play with, as all those things were combined to form what we experienced, it doesn’t get any better. We really appreciate it and we are really looking forward to it. I know we are. It is going to be good.”
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Matt Light and Kevin Faulk honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC championship 01.17.13 at 3:11 pm ET
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Kevin Faulk won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. On Sunday, he will serve as an honorary captain with Matt Light. (AP)

Kevin Faulk won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. On Sunday, he will serve as an honorary captain with Matt Light. (AP)

FOXBORO — Two former Patriots key to the franchise’s Super Bowl success of the 2000s will serve as honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC championship game against Baltimore this Sunday.

Running back Kevin Faulk and left tackle Matt Light, who played their entire careers in New England and together helped the Patriots become the most successful team in the NFL for over a decade, were announced as the selections by the team on Thursday.

Both players announced their retirements in 2012 and each were honored with special halftime ceremonies during games this season to allow fans the opportunity to thank them for their Patriots careers. Faulk and Light played key roles in helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. Each played in six AFC Championship games and celebrated five AFC Championships.

Faulk, who announced his retirement on Oct. 10, 2012 after spending his entire 13-year career as a member of the New England Patriots, was honored on November 11 during the Buffalo game. Faulk, who filled various roles for the Patriots during his years with the team, joined the club in 1999 as a second-round pick (46th overall) out of LSU. He is the Patriots all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and kickoff return yards (4,098) and is the Patriots’ all-time leading return specialist, totaling 5,041 combined return yards (4,098 kick return yards and 943 punt return yards). Faulk ranks fifth in Patriots history in rushing yards (3,607), fifth in receptions (431), 11th in pass receiving yards (3,701) and sixth in total punt return yards (943).

Faulk recorded the longest non-touchdown kickoff return in team history when he covered 95 yards on a return against the New York Jets (11/15/99).

Light was originally drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Light left the football field having played a major role in leading the Patriots to 11 consecutive seasons with a winning record, nine division championships, five conference titles and three Super Bowls. On February 5, 2012, he tied an NFL record when he started in his fifth Super Bowl, joining teammate Tom Brady along with Cornelius Bennett, John Elway and Charles Haley as the only other players to accomplish the feat.

In 2009, he was recognized as one of the best players in franchise history when he was named to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team. Light earned three Pro Bowl honors following the 2006, 2007 and 2010 seasons. He played in 175 regular season games with 173 starts including all 20 postseason games and helped the Patriots’ offense finish in the top 10 seven times.

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots. WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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Setting the scene LIVE from Gillette: Patriots-Texans 12.10.12 at 4:43 pm ET
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Matt Light will be honored at halftime of Monday's game as one of the greatest linemen in Patriots history. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — After a week of seemingly endless hype, the Patriots and Texans will finally be ready for some football at Gillette Stadium.

When they do kick off at 8:30, it will be unseasonably mild, with the forecast calling for cloudy skies and 56 degrees. Not exactly the weather that was anticipated for Dec. 10 in Foxboro when the schedule was released back in April. The rain that fell earlier is not expected to be a factor since the field was covered by a tarp.

The game features top-ranked offense in the NFL in the Patriots (426.3 yards/game) and the fourth-ranked offense in the Texans (389.6). While most know Arian Foster leads a rushing attack (142.5 yards/game) that sets up a dangerous play-action offense, the Patriots have quietly moved themselves into the top 10 among rushing teams in the NFL. The Patriots rank eighth at 140.8 yards per game.

The Patriots offensive and defensive lines figure to each get a big boost with the return of a key starter.

After missing three games with a left ankle injury, Logan Mankins is expected to return to his customary starting spot at left guard while Chandler Jones – and his six sacks – are expected back at right defensive end for the Patriots.

The only Patriots player ruled out for tonight due to injury is Rob Gronkowski, missing his third straight game with a broken left forearm. Julian Edelman was placed on injured reserve and is done for the season after injuring his foot in the AFC East-clinching win over the Dolphins in South Florida on Dec. 2.

Jermaine Cunningham is missing his second straight game after being hit with an NFL-mandated four-game suspension for violation of the league’s PED policy.

In addition to Mankins and Jones, 11 Patriots are listed as questionable, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Brandon Spikes. All are expected to play, barring any last-second setbacks in pre-game warmups.

Injuries could play a much bigger role for the Texans as they are without starting right tackle Derek Newton (knee), outside linebacker Brooks Reed and tight end Garrett Graham (concussion).

Tonight will be a night to honor one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Patriots history as Matt Light (inset), who retired last spring, will become the fifth Patriots player since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 to retire as a career Patriot and receive the honor of addressing the fans during a halftime ceremony. He joins former teammates Kevin Faulk (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2010), Troy Brown (2008) and Ted Johnson (2005) to receive the honor.

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Patriots will honor Kevin Faulk this Sunday 11.05.12 at 12:33 pm ET
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Kevin Faulk (AP)

The Patriots announced Monday that recently retired running back Kevin Faulk will be honored in a special halftime ceremony at this Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills to allow fans an opportunity to celebrate his career. Here’s a portion of the press release that was issued by the team on Monday:

Faulk, who filled various roles for the Patriots during his years with the team, joined the club in 1999 as a second-round pick (46th overall) out of LSU. He is the Patriots all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and kickoff return yards (4,098) and is the Patriots’ all-time leading return specialist, totaling 5,041 combined return yards (4,098 kick return yards and 943 punt return yards).

Faulk ranks fifth in Patriots history in rushing yards (3,607), fifth in receptions (431), eleventh in pass receiving yards (3,701) and sixth in total punt return yards (943). Faulk recorded the longest non-touchdown kickoff return in team history when he covered 95 yards on a return against the New York Jets (11/15/99).

For his career, he played in 161 games and accumulated 3,607 yards rushing on 864 attempts for a 4.2-yard average with 16 touchdowns, caught 431 passes for 3,701 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, returned 182 kicks for 4,098 yards and two touchdowns and returned 101 punts for 943 yards.
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Why Danny Woodhead has become one of the most important parts of the Patriots offense 10.18.12 at 10:37 pm ET
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Danny Woodhead is primed to face his old team Sunday. (AP)

FOXBORO — In an offense full of big names and larger than life personalities, it’s easy to underestimate the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Danny Woodhead. But in his third season with the Patriots, the running back has become one of the most important parts of the New England offense.

Last season, he was the only skill position player to finish with at least 15 catches and 15 rushing attempts. (He ended the year with 77 carries for 351 yards and 18 receptions for 157 yards.) And this season, through six games, he’s the only one on the team who has reached double digits in receptions (10 for 115 yards and a touchdown) and carries (40 for 144 yards and a touchdown).

When everything was melting down for the Patriots Sunday against the Seahawks, Woodhead was one of the only elements to the New England offense that continued to do well. The undersized running back was the only player on offense to register a first down for the Patriots for the last 10 minutes of the game (he had two of them over the last 10:30 of regulation), and he finished with five catches for 46 yards and four rushes for 25 yards.

His versatility and dependability — with 10 catches on 11 targets this season, his 91 percent reception rate is the highest on the team of anyone with at least 10 targets — have sparked comparisons to veteran Kevin Faulk, who filled the role of third-down/changeup back for several seasons in New England before retiring. It’s a comparison offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked about this week.

“Danny is obviously a very important player for us,” McDaniels said. “He’s made a lot of critical [plays], whether it’s catches or runs, third-down protections or blocking blitzers. Danny has filled that role and done a really nice job with it.

“Kevin was certainly one of the best Patriots ever and had a great career and did a lot of similar things, [but] I think they’re different players. Danny did definitely show up and make some important plays for us [against Seattle] like he has all year.”

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