Chung hopes to lend hand
Safety awaiting word on return
FOXBOROUGH - A week after undergoing surgery on his right thumb, safety Patrick Chung said he could play on Sunday against the Raiders, but emphasized the decision is coach Bill Belichick’s.
“I feel good,’’ said Chung, who has practiced the last two days. “It’s not my decision. I’m just working hard, trying to get out there and help the team.’’
Chung injured the thumb in the Week 2 win over the Chargers and is wearing a cast on his hand. He chalked the injury up to normal game contact.
“I feel like it just happens,’’ he said. “It’s a physical game and people are going to come hit you and you’re going to try and hit people. You’re grabbing constantly, and it happens every once in a while that you might hit your hand on a helmet or someone coming in on a shoulder pad, but it’s part of the game.’’
There was a possibility that Chung could have played last week against the Bills even though he was a mere days removed from surgery. He was listed as questionable on the injury report, but was held out of the 34-31 loss, in which the Patriots allowed 369 passing yards.
“That’s last week,’’ Chung said. “It was tough to watch, but it’s last week. We have the Raiders. They’re a good team. So we have to get ready for them.’’
Chung said he’s never had to play with a cast before, and refused to say whether he felt he would be limited in any way.
“Those are for the coach, those are for the trainer,’’ he said. “I’m just working hard.’’
Chung has missed three games in his three seasons, the other two last season because of a knee injury.
“You have to always prepare mentally, physically, whatever you have to do to make sure that you know what you’re doing so that when Coach needs you to get in there, you’re ready,’’ he said. “I’m just going to make sure I’m ready to go.’’
Ridley is ready The Patriots turned to rookie Stevan Ridley to spark the running game against the Bills, and the rookie out of LSU relished the opportunity.
Ridley carried the ball six times for 42 yards, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for just 18 yards on 10 carries.
“The overall experience was really great,’’ Ridley said. “I’ve been waiting a long time and it’s been a dream.’’
Ridley’s 16-yard burst in the fourth quarter was the second longest run of the day and of the season for the Patriots, who are averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
“Some holes opened up and the offensive line did a great job and it was my job to get ball downhill and run the football,’’ Ridley said.
Ridley, a third-round pick, had a solid preseason, rushing for a pair of touchdowns in the exhibition opener against the Jaguars. Last week marked his first prolonged game action in the regular season.
“For me to get in last week and get in the game, I knew the coaches were going to give me the ball a little bit, but I didn’t know how much they were going to give it to me,’’ he said. “But with the reps I was given, I just wanted to go out there and make something happen.’’
Big three Three focal points for the defense this week in practice have been third downs, limiting big plays, and tackling. In addition to giving up the most yards in the league, the Patriots have allowed opponents to convert 16 of 37 third-down attempts (43.2 percent, eighth-worst in the league), and have yielded 20 plays of 20 yards or more. And against the Bills, there were nine missed tackles.
“Obviously, just getting off the field on third down, reducing penalties, and getting more pressure on the quarterback,’’ said linebacker Jerod Mayo of the areas in need of improvement. “We have a lot of work to do, and hopefully it happens this week.’’
The Bills burned the Patriots for three long plays in the fourth quarter alone, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hooking up with Donald Jones for completions of 29 and 48 yards, and Stevie Johnson for 33 yards. This week, the Patriots have to figure out a way to bottle up Darren McFadden of the Raiders, the league’s leading rusher who’s already got a 70-yard TD run on his highlight reel this season.
“You just have to make plays on the ball,’’ Mayo said. “Big plays have been killing us. That’s one of the main priorities this week. Stopping the big play and getting off the field. We have to work on our tackling, just work on being aggressive. Oakland is a physical team. So that’s another challenge for us.’’
Defensive end Andre Carter said the unit needs to find consistency.
“We’ve shown signs of this is our identity, and then there will be a series or a play where we took a step back,’’ he said. “So in general from now on, each and every week, we just have to play on a consistent level, know our keys, and just play football.’’
Mankins back Logan Mankins returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session, but was listed because of illness. Albert Haynesworth (back) missed practice, as did Aaron Hernandez (knee), Sebastian Vollmer (back), and Mike Wright (concussion). In addition to Chung, Kyle Arrington (chest), Leigh Bodden (groin), Ras-I Dowling (hip), Shaun Ellis (knee), Gary Guyton (hamstring), Mayo (thigh), Zoltan Mesko (left knee), Taylor Price (hamstring), and Ryan Wendell (calf) were limited. Josh Barrett (thumb) and Dane Fletcher (thumb) participated in full . . . McFadden, who dealt with shoulder soreness the first two weeks of the season, then left last Sunday’s win over the Jets with a groin injury, practiced fully for the Raiders.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.