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Ridley holds onto hopes; Fumbles plagued Pats back in 2013.

Byline: Rich Garven

FOXBORO -- Stevan Ridley headed to the West Coast for a spell in the offseason, a trip that mixed California dreaming and designing.

The fourth-year pro was part of an "open house'' situation that included the likes of Patriots teammates Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Ryan Mallett along with ex-Pat Brandon Spikes, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills.

"I got to spend a lot of time with my teammates and it was actually really good to get away from football for a little bit and hang out and do some things together,'' Ridley said Thursday following offseason workout activities at Gillette Stadium. "We kept that team bonding going and growing throughout the year even if we're not here in Foxboro.''

Ridley also spent some time in Los Angeles, teaming up with a former business acquaintance to begin designing clothes for a new venture that he expects to be up and running in the next few months.

"It's actually been a dream of mine for a long time and it's coming into play now,'' said Ridley, who gained quite a bit of publicity for himself a couple of years ago by wearing an adult onesie in a local car commercial and during interviews in the locker room.

So Ridley's offseason involved letting go of football, which, ironically enough, was his problem during the season.

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back has dealt with ball security issues since the Patriots drafted him in the third round (73rd overall) out of LSU in 2011. But it reached an apex -- or, rather, a low point -- last season.

Ridley fumbled four times, unfortunately for him the opposition recovering all of the loose balls.

His butterfingers earned him a seat on the bench for the majority of the season opener at Buffalo and a spot on the inactive list against Houston in Week 13 after fumbling in back-to-back games, one of which was against Denver when he was pulled after four carries.

"All you can do is really squeeze it high and tight,'' Ridley answered when asked if you can practice holding the football during these OTA sessions. "I can't really sit on that too much. I think that was a lesson I had to go through and hopefully I won't have to go through it again. But who knows?

"Like I said, you never know what's the plan and what God has in store for you, but a little bit of adversity never hurts anybody and so for me I just have to go out there and be the player that I am ... I told one of the young guys today that's the quickest way to get off the field. You can ask me first.''

Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are back in the backfield, along with fullback James Develin. Late-season sensation LeGarrette Blount departed for Pittsburgh after getting the cold shoulder from New England.

James White arrived via the draft, the 1,400-plus yard rusher from Wisconsin selected in the fourth round. First-year pro Jonas Gray (Notre Dame) and rookies Roy Finch (Oklahoma) and Stephen Houston (Indiana) were added through free agency.

"We just have to keep working hard,'' Ridley said of the group. "LeGarrette or no LeGarrette it's just the guys that we have in the room. I've always said that the running back room is a room that I like a lot. The guys have been around for a long time and we're a very unselfish group.

"But we want to be a dependable group, if anything, so it really doesn't matter who we are as individuals. We have to get it done as a unit because no one guy is going to get that job done.''

Ridley is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie deal. Considering his fumble issues -- nine in 555 career carries -- the Patriots are likely to sit back and wait to see what unfolds before deciding whether to re-sign their former lead back.

That's assuming they haven't already made that decision, what with the league-wide trend of the devaluation of the running back position.

Not surprisingly, Ridley claimed to not be dwelling on his future here.

"Um, honestly man I try not to think too much about it,'' he said.

"I just really put my faith in God and that's as real as I can be. I have to go out there and play football and hit it hard and run the ball and get wide-open.

"I just have to be the same player I've been up to this point in time and just try to go out there be mistake-free.''

Now there's some California dreaming for you.

Contact Rich Garven

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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Garven, Rich
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jun 6, 2014
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