New England Patriots: inactive

Ridley: 'Ball can't be on the ground'

August, 8, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- What was the biggest lesson New England Patriots tailback Stevan Ridley learned in his rookie year?

"The ball can't be on the ground," Ridley said bluntly Wednesday. "That's no secret. Fumbles will have you on the bench."

[+] EnlargeStevan Ridley
AP Photo/Michael DwyerBall security is something running back Stevan Ridley is working on during training camp.
Ridley admits last season's playoff run still stings. A solid rookie year was otherwise overshadowed by fumbling twice in his last two games, including a fumble in a crucial playoff win against the Denver Broncos. That was enough for New England coach Bill Belichick to put Ridley on ice for the remainder of the team's Super Bowl run. Ridley was inactive in both the AFC title game and the Super Bowl.

Ridley is using that cruel ending to his rookie season as motivation to come back a better player in Year 2. As a result, Ridley is running well in training camp and has taken the lead as New England's projected No. 1 tailback. The Patriots have not released a firm depth chart, but Ridley is expected to start in Thursday's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. It will be Ridley's first game action since his postseason fumble against Denver.

"I'm a little bit more comfortable out there," Ridley said of his second season. "Am I perfect? Not by any means. I still have a lot of work to do. Over time, my carries and my reps on the field have increased, but it’s still a long way to go and there’s still a lot of work to be done."

Ridley is outshining his training camp roommate, Shane Vereen, so far in camp. Both were high draft picks in 2011. Their potential is the reason New England was comfortable not re-signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis and cut fellow veteran Joseph Addai in the summer.

Ridley's game experience last year is showing through in his running. He’s hitting the holes well and showing good vision in New England’s pass-first system. Ridley rushed for 441 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. That kind of average will make New England’s offense extremely dangerous. Ridley just needs to continue to gain the trust of the coaching staff by holding onto the football.

"This year I'm going to go and do the best that I can to keep the ball high and tight," Ridley said. "I know that if I can keep the ball in my hands, I'm going to be on the field. So my work is cut out for me."

Ridley knows he must grow up fast in his second season. The Patriots, favorites in the AFC, will be relying on a young running back this year, whether it's Ridley or Vereen. So far Ridley's performance in camp gives him the inside track.

Neal, Brace, Wheatley fill out inactives

December, 6, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Starting right guard Stephen Neal, reserve defensive lineman Ron Brace and reserve cornerback Terrence Wheatley are the remaining three players inactive for the Patriots today.

Neal, who was questionable with an ankle injury, is likely to be replaced by four-year veteran Dan Connolly. Rookie Rich Ohrnberger becomes the top interior backup.

Without Brace, the Patriots have their top five linemen active: Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Mike Wright and Myron Pryor.

Wheatley's absence -- not because of injury -- thins the cornerback corps to Leigh Bodden, Jonathan Wilhite, Darius Butler and Kyle Arrington. This could lead the team to tap more into safety depth in sub packages with Pat Chung and James Sanders.

Julian Edelman, running back Fred Taylor, defensive back Shawn Springs, defensive back Bret Lockett and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer were ruled out Saturday.