FOXBOROUGH — Stevan Ridley remembers when he was given the opportunity to play professional football in New England, drafted in the third round out of LSU, and looking back at it, he’s stunned at how fast his leadership role on the team has unfolded.
He now has an obligation to shepherd newcomers still getting acclimated to New England.
“It’s kind of strange going from being one of the youngest guys in the locker room to the oldest, but time does that to you,’’ Ridley said. “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.’’
And head coach Bill Belichick’s advice has escorted Ridley in the right direction leadership-wise.
“I think really what coach say to us is, ‘Being a leader is not really about what you say, it’s about what you do.’ 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,’’ Ridley said.
One emphasis of training camp for all runnings backs, not just Ridley, has been potency in the red zone. In his third year Ridley has shown a capacity to get into the end zone, totaling 19 touchdowns in the past two seasons. During camp thus far, Ridley has shown great promise by consistently plowing through the defense during red zone drills, and overall, the Pats’ starting running back has liked his group’s results.
Following success in goal line scenarios Sunday, the running backs were extremely enthused, cheering even, at the work they had basically mastered.
“When we get out in the red zone, we’re trying to score,’’ he said. “We’ve had two decent days of finding the end zone. Anytime you score, the stands go wild, so we have to be our own energy out there on the practice field, and we’re trying to finish practice strong. So we get excited anytime we go in the end zone and score.’’
The running backs, specifically newcomer James White, should be in good spirits. White, who rushed for 1,444 yards and notched 13 touchdowns in his senior season at Wisconsin, has done nothing but impress those keeping a close eye on the running backs.
His cutting ability, speed, and vision have drawn attention in comparison to all runners at practice, and, particularly, for a rookie. Plus, White has been deployed in multiple schemes, taking on receiving and blocking duties.
Ridley realized this himself and praised White.
“Coach has the eye for bringing guys in here. From what I’ve seen from him, he’s been a team player, worked hard, made some great cuts and catches,’’ Ridley said. “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.’’
Although firing on all cylinders may be an overstatement, the quality that we’re seeing from the running backs is surely promising.
“As a group, we’re getting it done. It’s good to have everyone healthy and on the field for once, as a unit. We’re going to try to be a strong point (on the team) as we have been in years past.’’