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Two seasons into NFL, Ridley still shooting for ultimate prize

New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) celebrates his 2-yard run for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 35-21 lead in the fourth quarter during their game against the Buffalo Bills this past season in Buffalo, N.Y. Ridley says he’s fine after suffering a concussion during the Patriots’ AFC championship game against the Ravens Jan. 20. (Barry Chin / The Boston Globe)

New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) celebrates his 2-yard run for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 35-21 lead in the fourth quarter during their game against the Buffalo Bills this past season in Buffalo, N.Y. Ridley says he’s fine after suffering a concussion during the Patriots’ AFC championship game against the Ravens Jan. 20. (Barry Chin / The Boston Globe)

NATCHEZ — Stevan Ridley’s football season ended abruptly with a hit from Baltimore’s Bernard Pollard Jan. 20 in the AFC Championship Game.

The blow knocked the ball loose from Ridley’s arms and also knocked him out cold.

“I was knocked out a little,” Ridley said about the hit.

The former Trinity Episcopal Day School and LSU running back said he really did not come to until he got in the locker room.

The Patriots would go on to lose that game 28-13.

More than one month later, Ridley can laugh about the incident, as he did when asked about it while speaking to a crowd of Morgantown Middle School students Wednesday morning.

Both of Ridley’s first two seasons in the NFL have ended with fumbles and playoff losses for his team, but he is using that as motivation for his third year in the league.

“It’s definitely motivation,” he said. “I mean, I have ‘Super Bowl’ tattooed on my arm. It’s going to come though. I’m playing with the best coach in the NFL, and the best quarterback to ever play the game. Our team is going to be there and have a shot at the playoffs and a Super Bowl every year as long as we keep working hard.”

Ridley has completely recovered from the hit he took from Pollard and is currently enjoying some down time before organized team activities begin April 15.

“I’m good,” he said. “I have no headaches. It’s nothing bad. I have no symptoms carrying over. I’m fine and resting up, enjoying my offseason and next year, I will get back at it.”

The offseason for an NFL player is short, but Ridley said it is important to get recharged after a long season.

“You have to get your rest, but at the same time, you have to put yourself in the position to be successful the following season,” he said. “I have to do a bit of training, but really these are the days I get to sleep in when I want.”

Despite facing the disappointment of being close to a Super Bowl ring twice and falling short, Ridley said he is thankful that his team has been so successful in his first two seasons.

“It’s definitely a blessing, because a lot of people get drafted, but I got drafted to a team where I have a shot to do something special,” Ridley said. “I really don’t take that for granted at all. A lot of people play and make a lot of money but never accomplish or win anything. And that’s what I want to do. I’ve always been a winner. At Trinity we won, we won at LSU and now in New England. I love where I am and thankful Gold placed me there.”

Ridley had his best season in his sophomore campaign. He rushed for 1,263 yards on 290 carries and 12 touchdowns.

But he said those numbers do not guarantee anything in his third season.

“Really I don’t know what to expect (for next year),” Ridley said. “With Coach Belichick, you don’t know what to expect. He’s unpredictable. But if I go in there and commit myself like I did this year and try to better myself, I can expect myself to get my fair share.”

Ridley does know who to expect to be handing the ball off to him for the foreseeable future. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady received a contract extension recently that will keep him under center for the Patriots for a long time.

“I can’t really speak on his contract, because I mean that’s more money than I can understand,” he said. “But I will say with Tom, that he’s a team player. For me personally, I’m smiling ear to ear, because I get to play with the best quarterback for hopefully as long as I’m in New England. I’m glad he’s back.”

Ridley said he will continue to enjoy his offseason, and he hopes to travel some, before setting his mind back on football. But even during his offseason, football never wanders too far from his mind.

“Every day (I think about football),” he said. “I think that if you’re not thinking about it every day, then your hearts not really in it. Now, it’s no longer fun. It’s a job, so every day that you don’t do something to get better you’re taking a step back.”

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