Ridley had nine carries for 46 yards and two fumbles against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, and the 24-year-old did not see the field again after his second gaffe was returned 74 yards for a touchdown by defensive back Da'Norris Searcy.
As noted by ESPN's Mike Reiss, Ridley stayed on the sidelines:
Stevan Ridley has not been on the field for an offensive snap since his second-quarter fumble.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 8, 2013
Initially replaced by LeGarrette Blount, Ridley had to watch from the sidelines as teammate Shane Vereen racked up nearly 160 yards of total offense on his way to laying claim to the starting tailback job.
For a number of reasons, Ridley could be a very risky play on a week-to-week basis during the 2013 season.
The Patriots survived the Bills, 23-21, as quarterback Tom Brady led New England on two fourth-quarter scoring drives after trailing by four when the final frame began. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted a 35-yard field goal with five seconds on the clock to give the Pats the victory.
Plays like Ridley's fumble in the second quarter made things difficult for the Pats all afternoon. Sure, it was Week 1, but with the infusion of a number of new receivers into the mix on offense around Brady, the Pats needed Ridley to be a consistent presence in the backfield to help stabilize the unit.
As noted by NFL.com's Albert Breer on Twitter, this isn't the first time ball security issues have plagued Ridley:
Bad fumble by Ridley after a near-fumble earlier. As valuable as he is, this isn't the first time for him, and might land him on the bench.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 8, 2013
After the game was over, Zuri Berry of The Boston Globe caught up with Ridley, and the tone of his quotes are consistent with a man focused on doing everything he can to win back his starting job this week in practice.
"This was the first game of the 2013 season, and what happened last year just goes to show you that things can change day to day," Ridley said, per Berry's report. "Coming in and having two turnovers, I can’t blame anybody but myself."
Ridley also expressed support for Vereen's big day, even though it was at his expense.
"I’m happy for [Vereen], I really am. It sucks for me, to be in this situation, but as a teammate, I have to pat him on the back and just tell him that he did a great job in helping us win this game today."
The thing is, Vereen's standout performance—in conjunction with the Patriots needing stability at running back more than ever—could leave Ridley out in the cold in his positional rotation.
That makes his fantasy situation suspect.
Erik Frenz, Bleacher Report's AFC East Lead Writer, noticed that Vereen managed to accumulate his yardage total while still prioritizing ball security:
Vereen is absolutely aware of the importance of ball security. Two hands on the ball every single time he gets it.— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) September 8, 2013
Moving forward, there's certainly a chance Ridley could regain his status as the team's starter. Heck, if he trotted out in Week 2 and was listed on the broadcast as such, I'm not sure many would be surprised with or doubt Belichick's intuition.
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However, the Patriots went heavy at running back on the roster. Ridley, Vereen, Blount, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington and James Develin all made the 53-man total, a decision that makes the fantasy situation in the New England backfield cloudier than ever.
Looking at the scope of New England's offensive philosophy and the way they've trotted running backs in and out of the lineup on a weekly basis, Ridley should not be dropped from your roster after Week 1.
But think twice before feeling confidence in making him a fantasy starter in Week 2.
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