ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the end, Stevan Ridley said that it’s the quiet that gets to you.
One day you’re an NFL player with the idea in your head that you’ll be an NFL player in the future. And suddenly you’re not, and 32 teams have each signed 90 players to go through their offseason programs -- the math says that’s 2,880 in all -- and you’re not one of them.
“That’s humbling,” Ridley said. “When the phone doesn’t ring, you learn not to take things for granted. Because when it doesn’t ring, you can only work to make the most of a chance and hope you get one.”
Ridley arrived at the Denver Broncos' complex on July 26, the same day a pre-training camp physical revealed that Devontae Booker had a fractured bone in his left wrist. Booker is expected to miss six weeks with the injury, and the Broncos are also trying to regulate Jamaal Charles’ workload throughout training camp because Charles has played in just eight games in the past two seasons due to multiple knee surgeries.
So the Broncos needed a back who could come in, learn fast, work hard, and if things went well, show some potential. Ridley has checked all the boxes thus far.
“He understands he has an opportunity to make a football team,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “ … He’s a veteran player. He’s been in New England, so he knows what it looks like. So I’m not surprised he’s so engaged, as far as studying and how he practices.”
Ridley does find himself at one of the most crowded positions on the Broncos’ depth chart. Booker’s injury doesn’t affect his status as a player the Broncos considered as the team’s No. 1 back.
C.J. Anderson has been the team’s No. 1 back before and has worked as the lead guy throughout the offseason program and in training camp so far. The Broncos believe Charles can give them something in the offense if his knees are up to the challenge, and rookie De’Angelo Henderson has shown the big-play potential in practice that the Broncos want at the position.
Toss in the fact that fullback Andy Janovich is a special-teams mainstay and a quality receiving option on offense and Juwan Thompson's ability on special teams to go with his three seasons on the roster and that makes the number of running backs the Broncos will keep when they cut to 53 players a difficult total to guess.
Ridley has shown power and vision in the running game as well as the ability to run quality routes as a receiver with consistent hands. And it wasn’t so long ago that he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns for a Patriots team that finished 12-4 in 2012 and advanced to the AFC Championship Game.
“[Ridley] runs hard. He definitely has great vision, and he could catch the ball out of the backfield,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “Anybody that plays in that Patriots offense could catch the ball.”
There is also the matter of those months out of the league when Ridley had the desire the return but no willing takers. There is fuel there for a guy who has been on the outside looking in on the league.
“No question that motivates guys. If you’re at home and nobody’s calling you, you’re thinking it’s over,” Joseph said. “You’re training and training and then somebody calls -- some guys just see it as an opportunity they need to go for.”
With Booker out and Charles not expected to play much, if at all, in the Broncos’ four preseason games, Ridley should get a chance to showcase himself for the Broncos or any of the league’s other 31 teams.
“I know you can’t take anything in this game for granted,” Ridley said. “I don’t think I really did before, but it really hits you when you’re out there. … I’m very thankful to have another shot.”