Stevan Ridley is one of 10 New England Patriots scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency on March 10. But while the fourth-year NFL running back is entering those waters under uncertain terms, testing the depths is something he is prepared for.
“I’m excited about it,” Ridley told Sirius XM Radio’s Movin’ the Chains on Friday afternoon. “As a player coming into the league, you get there and your first contract you kind of have to establish yourself and see what you can do. Everybody is a good player if you get to make it to the NFL, but there is something to be said if you get that second contract.”
Ridley played in 52 games for New England after being selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft out of LSU. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound back amassed 2,817 rushing yards and 146 receiving yards over that span, along with 22 touchdowns.
Yet in October of 2014, the 26-year-old saw the final year of his rookie contract result in just 360 total yards and two scores, as he landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL only six weeks into it.
And in result, whether or not he’ll return to the team that drafted him for 2015 is far from clear.
“Where I’ll be playing, and who I’ll be playing for, is still unknown,” Ridley said. “But I know I’ve come in and done my job up to this point. And now I have to put it in my agent’s hands to get me on another team, or stay where I’m at, and make sure I’m in pads playing ball somewhere next year. I know if you think about it too much it will worry you sick.”
Ridley’s best season with New England arrived in 2012, when he notched 1,263 rushing yards to go with a career-best 12 touchdowns as a second-year pro. And those are numbers he’s looking to reach once again, despite injury, and despite the limbo he now is set to face.
He believes he has something to offer.
“I take it personal to any team or anybody that says I can’t be a very productive player on whatever team I land on,” the Natchez, Miss., native said. “I’ve been playing ball my whole life. I’m going to come in and be a leader, and I’m going to be a guy that comes in and busts his butt in the weight room and busts his butt on the field. I’m a good teammate, I have fun with my guys. But when the lights come on Sundays, it’s all business and I plan on going out there and making plays.”
Ridley made his share of plays over the course of his 672 touches in a Patriots uniform, accumulating 159 first downs, 17 scampers of 20-plus yards, 136 points as well four playoff excursions. And those are marks he’ll carry with him moving forward, even if the outcome of free agency carries him elsewhere.
“Being in New England the last four years, four AFC Championships, two Super Bowls, that’s really hard to replace, to go to another team somewhere,” Ridley added. “But going to another team could mean more opportunities, and could mean more carries, and could mean another team that doesn’t have the winning tradition that’s up in New England and has been established there.”