It never left his hands all game.
As Stevan Ridley paced the sideline at Reliant Stadium Sunday afternoon — not in a Patriots uniform but in a navy-blue long-sleeve T-shirt and tights topped by team-issued shorts (a stark departure from his far more colorful choices in fashion) — he had a football with him at all times.
Was it coach’s orders? That part is unclear.
But after three lost fumbles in three games, giving him four for the season, Ridley found himself a mere spectator as New England played Houston, albeit one with a great vantage point.
It seemed obvious that Ridley was being punished for his mistakes in the most public of ways, though coach Bill Belichick would not say so, either after the game or Monday morning during a conference call. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.