Ridley officially arrives at crossroads

HOUSTON -- With the Patriots declaring running back Stevan Ridley inactive for today's game against the Texans, it officially puts him at a crossroads with the team. If Ridley isn't active against the two-win Texans, there is little reason to think (outside of injury) that he'll be a major factor coming down the stretch and into the playoffs when the games mean that much more.

The big question entering today was how the Patriots might ease Ridley back into the mix after he was benched last Sunday following his third lost fumble in three games. The most likely scenario was that he would see limited snaps. Few figured he'd be inactive.

Part of that could be tied to needs in other areas of the roster, as Ridley doesn't play on special teams. But it's still a big fall for the third-year running back whose contract extends through the 2014 season. Ridley has taken accountability for the fumbling issues and reached out to former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk earlier this week, as Faulk had similar struggles early in his career before turning things around and becoming one of the team's most reliable players. Faulk, who now lives in Louisiana and is coaching high school football, visited the Patriots hotel Saturday in Houston and is expected to be in attendance at today's game.

But he won't see Ridley on the field because Bill Belichick, who often says that when a player carries the ball he carries with him the fate of the entire organization, has made a decisive move with Ridley.

Belichick isn't easing Ridley back into the mix in an attempt to build up his confidence. Instead, he's made him inactive, putting Ridley's future as the team's lead back at an official crossroads.