Monday, August 5, 2013

Ridley on 'crown rule': I have to play football


The NFL's young "crown rule," which prevents running backs from lowering their heads and meeting defenders with the crown of their helmets, has many ball carriers up in arms this offseason.

Looks like you can add Stevan Ridley to that list.

The New England Patriots tailback, who's entering his third season, was the team's workhorse in the running game last year, spending much of his time between the tackles. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder battled for more than 1,200 yards in 2012 and caused nearly 30 missed tackles along the way.

Ridley was asked during workouts Saturday whether he felt the new rule would affect his running style and, more importantly, his interactions with defenders. The 24-year-old didn't seem like he was ready to change much about the way he handles his business in the backfield.

"I'm going out there to play the game the way I play it," Ridley told reporters. "Hopefully I can do my best to stay safe and stay away from getting flagged from that penalty. But I have to play football, I have to protect myself, and I have to run hard.

"As a runner we have to get our pads down and we have to get as low as we can to protect ourselves from defenders. So, if they call it, they call it. And I'm sure coach will have something to say about it, and we'll go from there."

Past run-ins don't seem to have altered Ridley's view on the subject whatsoever, even after being the victim of a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit with Ravens safety Bernard Pollard in last year's AFC Championship game. He, like many backs that touch the ball 300 times a season, has relied on dropping his head and plowing through secondary defenders at times to avoid being taken out at the knees (a couple of clips around the 20-second mark of this link illustrates the point).

Ridley, who's reportedly put on a decent amount of muscle since that brutal playoff hit, will battle with fellow third-year pro Shane Vereen as well as newcomer LeGarrette Blount for playing time this season, though the No. 1 spot is likely Ridley's to lose. Second-year back Brandon Bolden and veteran Leon Washington will also be battling throughout training camp for a chance to show their worth.

Ridley gained 716 yards after contact last season, averaging 2.5 yards after contact.

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