FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots had a brilliant, young running back they could hand the ball to 20-plus times per game?
About 1997 when Curtis Martin was in his final season here.
But as scintillating as Stevan Ridley's been this season, Bill Belichick indicated Monday he's not going to ride with Ridley regardless.
Ridley's late fumble when the Patriots were trying to eat clock added some unnecessary drama to the Patriots 31-21 win. It also soiled a 28-carry, 151-yard performance by the second-year back.
Last season, Ridley was put in mothballs after fumbling twice (one lost) late in the year. Asked how he would handle Ridley's playing time going forward this season, Belichick said, "There's nothing more important than possession of the ball. We can't afford to lose it, it's as simple as that."
What that means for Sunday's game in Seattle, we'll have to wait and see. But Belichick stressed the amount of time the team spends working on making sure the ball isn't dropped by anyone anytime.
"We work on ball security with every player that handles the ball. Every week. Every day," said Belichick. "That includes everybody that touches the ball. Center. Quarterback. Running backs, receivers, punters, kickers, snappers, returners, defenders when they get it if they happen to get it on a turnover. We talk and work on ball security every day with everybody. Everybody who handles it, it's important. It's the highest priority with everybody."
Ridley has 490 yards on 102 carries this season.