FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley isn't shy, but he's definitely humble, which can be a productive combination.
Ridley has never been quiet about his self-imposed expectations, yet he's always been driven to help his team. His message has been on point — practice hard, help the team, earn carries — and he is starting to get rewarded on the game field.
"Coming in, of course, I wanted to be the starter," said Ridley, a third-round pick from LSU. "Everybody wants to start. Everybody wants to be that guy, but I think the quickest way to get on the field is to find and know your role. Coach Bill [Belichick] talks about that all the time. Know your role. Do your job."
Ridley has gotten a career high in carries during each of the last two games. He rushed 11 times for 65 yards in Week 15 against the Broncos, and he racked up 13 carries for 64 yards last week against the Dolphins. His yardage high came on a 10-carry, 97-yard breakout game against the Raiders in Week 4, when he also scored his only touchdown.
Ridley has also been well-aware of his situation since the draft, and his mindset hasn't changed during the last eight months. The Patriots have a 1,000-yard rusher in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a franchise legend in Kevin Faulk, a do-it-all back in Danny Woodhead and a second-round pick in Shane Vereen.
It's been a crowded backfield since day one, and carries are tough to come by for anyone, let alone a rookie. Things have started to unfold for Ridley in recent weeks, though, and he's been happy to take advantage of the opportunity.
"We've got great running backs in there," Ridley said Wednesday. "I can't just come in there and take somebody's role. That's not how things work around here. You look at Faulk. You look at Benny. You look at Woodhead, Shane. We've got backs and talented backs. So nobody is going to come in here and take the bulk of the carries, and that's not my job to do that. I'm just trying to come in there and produce and do what they've asked me to do.
"If you can do those things, you'll see that carries will increase, whether it was Week 3 or Week 16, my carries have increased since I've gotten here, and that's all I can ask for. It's not my job to say when the time is — or it's now or it's later — it's when the coaches are ready. If they're ready to go now, I say let's get it on."