Stevan Ridley Sidelined: Blessing in Disguise?

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 02: Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots runs in for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on October 2, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

According to Field Yates over at ESPN Boston, Stevan Ridley suffered what appeared to be a knee injury during yesterday's practice. Shockingly, the Patriots aren't giving anyone any kind of real update as to the severity of the injury; however, the fact that Ridley was able to hang around to watch the end of practice before walking into the locker room on his own is certainly a good sign. I'd like to hope that the Patriots are just playing it safe keeping any and all nicked up players off the practice field to insure that everyone is healthy for when it matters most.

As long as the injury isn't serious, which at first glance it doesn't seem to be, I think that there is actually a great opportunity here for the other running backs currently on the roster. Ridley saw the bulk of the first team carries during the first preseason game, but now there is a great chance for the other backs to showcase their talents in Monday's game against the Eagles. I'd be very surprised if Ridley sees the field for Week 2 of the preseason, if for no other reason than as a precaution (and if he does play, great. That means he's 100% healthy). Most notably, I'm looking forward to seeing Shane Vereen take some reps with the first team; he had a great second half against the Saints last week, and I'm excited to observe his speed, cutting ability, and pass catching skills alongside Tom Brady and the rest of the starters. Monday is now also another chance for Brandon Bolden to make his case for why he belongs on the final roster, as the undrafted rookie continues to impress coaches and fans alike in training camp.

Something else to pay attention to: Ridley now joins fullbacks Spencer Larsen and Eric Kettani as a member of the walking wounded, which means that the only healthy backs currently on the roster are Vereen, Bolden, and Danny Woodhead. Again, I'm fairly confident that everyone will be fine once the season starts, but the team is definitely thin at the position for the time being, and so something else to watch out for going forward is whether or not Bill Belichick will bring in another back as a camp body to participate in the few crucial practices this team has left. On Wednesday, I wrote about the intriguing possibility of bringing in running back/return man/Olympic medalist Jeff Demps in order to provide what I think is a much needed burst to the kick return game, and while I still say that it's a longshot, maybe the current dearth of healthy backs is enough to make Belichick want to at least kick his tires.

Ridley's injury is definitely something to monitor, but as long as it isn't serious enough to warrant him missing significant time, this could actually work out in New England's favor long-term.

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