There’s no doubt that Stevan Ridley is a talented running back. Two years ago, when giving the opportunity to start 12 games, Ridley ran for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging 4.4 yards a carry. His only real deficiency seems to be his inability to hold on to the ball. A problem that caused him to be relegated to the sideline for much of last season.
Less than a week into training camp, it’s beginning to look as if coach Bill Belichick is giving Ridley another opportunity to win the starting gig. And while the 25-year-old is only entering his fourth year in the NFL, he’s finding that he’s growing into a team leader.
“It’s kind of strange going from being one of the youngest guys in the locker room to the oldest, but Tom [Brady] does that to you,” said Ridley. “And I realize that there are some guys behind me looking up to me. So, I have to do my job to stay on my toes to be a leader at all times, even when the coaches aren’t around.”
Ridley also acknowledges that coach Belichick has helped push him in this direction.
“I think really what coach says to us is, ‘Being a leader is not really about what you say, it’s about what you do,’” said Ridley. “Going on year four, it’s about time that I step in there, and if the team calls on me and wants me to take a leadership role, that’s what I’m going to do.”
So far, while Ridley has been impressive during training camp, rookie running back James White has been just as spectacular. White ran for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns last year at Wisconsin, and he’s proving that those numbers should translate to the NFL.
And while this may mean more competition for Ridley, he doesn’t see it that way. As a leader on this team, he’s excited to see how White can improve the offense.
“Coach has the eye for bringing guys in here. From what I’ve seen from [White], he’s been a team player, worked hard, made some great cuts and catches,” said Ridley. “He’s doing it on all three phases: blitz pickup, passing and running. And that’s what we need in our running back, a complete back.”
The Patriots are most likely going to go through the season with a platoon of running backs. Even if Ridley ends up being the “starting” back, White, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are all going to get plenty of work. Right now, it’s about making the whole corps as strong as possible, and it’s Ridley’s leadership that’s going to make that happen.
Follow Michael Jaycox at @MilkyMike
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