FOXBOROUGH — Stevan Ridley did not mince words.
“Absolutely not,” the running back said Monday in the Patriots’ locker room when asked if he’s pleased with where he is at this early point in the season.
Though Ridley acknowledged the entire offense has to improve, he saved his harshest criticism for himself.
“I don’t think anybody on this team’s happy or where they want to be, starting with myself,” the third-year back said. “I definitely didn’t get off to the start I wanted, I’ll man up and say that, and for me I’ve got to do better for my team and also this team has just got to work that much harder.
“We don’t put the blame on anybody, we’re a unit and it takes 11 of us out there and that’s who’s going to have to stick together if we plan on improving in these coming weeks.”
He was equally candid when asked what specifically he’s looking to improve.
“Hold the ball, man. That’s what you’re getting at — holding the ball,” Ridley said. “I’ll start with myself and say that.”
Ridley was benched in the first half of the Week 1 game against Buffalo after what was technically his second fumble of the afternoon (the first was negated after it was ruled he was down by contact), which was recovered by the Bills and returned for their first touchdown.
In his nine carries, Ridley had 46 yards, including a 20-yard run.
But before it could be speculated after the game how long Ridley would remain on the bench, his replacement in Buffalo, Shane Vereen, was placed on short-term injured reserve with a broken wrist. With so many other injuries to skill-position players, the Patriots had to get Ridley in the mix against the Jets last Thursday night.
Rushing yards were hard to come by that night, with Ridley gaining just 40 yards on 16 carries; as a team, New England averaged 2.3 yards on 24 attempts. It was just one part of a frustrating night for the offense, which had just nine first downs over 16 possessions.
Told in jest that some fans are ready to “jump off a bridge” after seeing the Patriots, although they’re 2-0, struggle so mightily, Ridley suggested they make room.
“Well in that case the whole team would be ready to jump off a bridge because we didn’t score as many points as we wanted to either,” he said. “For us, it’s a struggle, man. It’s going into Week 3 and I don’t think any team in the league is really where they want to be right now, and that’s not making any excuses for us, that just tells us we have to come in here and work a little bit harder and try to fix the things we messed up this past weekend.
“That’s why it’s a week behind us and we have time to prepare for what’s coming up and we can hopefully try to improve and get better.”
With receiver Danny Amendola on the shelf for an unknown period of time, Vereen out for seven more weeks, tight end Rob Gronkowski’s return still up in the air, and the passing offense still a work in progress, Ridley knows the players at his position have to step up.
“We’ve been saying that since camp; that’s a question that we’ve had pop up and I think for us we have to go out there and be the players that we are,” he said. “They’re going to lean on us a little bit more, especially with Shane going down, that was a crucial part of our offense. We’re going to have to step up and keep playing. We take it one day at a time and we can only do what we can do and that’s come in here and work.
“And I mean that when I say it: each individual has to improve, starting with myself. We have to get better than we were last game and we can’t get satisfied with staying neutral and we’re not putting up enough points as an offense. We just have to improve; there’s things that we have to get better at, and that’s what we’re working hard to do.”
As he talked about the Buccaneers, who come to Gillette Stadium Sunday, and with his frustration evident, Ridley seemed like a player who was ready to suit up Tuesday and not wait six days for another chance to get on the field.
“It’s been a long two weeks,” he said quietly. “But we’re just going to take them in stride and every day try to get better.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.