FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) It has been over a year since Stevan Ridley last cradled a football in a game. It's also the last time he openly wept on the sideline.
On Oct. 12, 2014, the then-New England running back took a handoff from Tom Brady late in the third quarter at Buffalo, made an awkward step while trying to avoid a tackle and went down in a heap.
He had two torn ligaments in his right knee, the same one he hurt in college. Ridley's season was over and his career in jeopardy. But after allowing his emotions to pour out, he never doubted he would someday be back on the field.
''My faith is in a God that can work miracles, some beautiful things,'' said Ridley, now a member of the New York Jets. ''I've seen way bigger issues come around than a knee injury. I've seen people be cured from cancer.''
So, for more than 12 months, Ridley has been working hard and praying for his comeback.
He fully practiced for the first time Wednesday since the injury, and has a chance to make his season debut Sunday against the Patriots in New England.
''The story couldn't be written any better,'' Ridley said. ''I'm fired up about it. It's my distant family. I've got so many friends that are over there. Just to say that I went out a year ago and I'm coming back this week against my old team, it's kind of crazy. I don't think you could make a movie any better than that.''
Coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey want to see how Ridley comes through the week before making a decision whether to activate him from the physically unable to perform list.
Ridley would be a welcome addition as an experienced playmaker behind Chris Ivory, although he insisted he's no ''magic piece'' to the offense.
''He looks OK,'' Gailey said. ''You don't see the same burst that you saw, but you shouldn't. That's got to come, and I think it will come. You can see flashes that he has good feet and he has good balance and good vision, but just that little burst isn't quite there yet.''
Regardless, just getting back on the field is significant progress for Ridley.
While he was still rehabbing from the injury, Ridley became a free agent and was not re-signed by the Patriots, with whom he rushed for 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns in four seasons. The Jets brought him in, having seen enough of him against them to know he could be valuable once he got healthy.
And, talk about timing.
''That's an obvious question, man,'' Ridley said, when asked if the opponent provides a little extra spark. ''I'm motivated, of course, because I'm a competitor. I'm motivated because I'm going against my old team. I'm motivated because this is my first game back.''
The Patriots and Tom Brady haven't missed a beat this season without Ridley or Shane Vereen, who was also allowed to become a free agent and joined the Giants. New England boasts the No. 2 overall offense and the undefeated Patriots (5-0) have LeGarrette Blount (249 yards rushing, four TDs) and Dion Lewis (201, 2) powering the running game.
''You can put it on the business,'' Ridley said of his departure. ''You can put it on whatever you want to put it on. It's in the bank of motivation for me. That's a team I was connected to and I'm no longer there. So guess what? I'm with my new team, with my new boys, and I'm with a new team that's doing tremendous.''
The Jets are looking for their first 5-1 start since the 2010 team, which went to the AFC championship game. That was the year before Ridley was a third-round draft pick of the Patriots out of LSU, but he knows all about the intense rivalry that still exists in the AFC East.
''We're not crowning anybody early,'' Ridley said. ''We're going to come in there and play ball.''
Ridley acknowledged he still has some work to do before he's completely ready to return from the torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. He's feeling ''pretty well'' and has done some hard cutting to test his knee.
So far, so good. He also knows there's a big difference between this and being ready to take hits in a game. No, he isn't 100 percent just yet. But Ridley has waited a long time to feel this good.
More than anything, he can't wait to carry the football in a game - and smile on the sideline again.
''I am ready,'' Ridley said, ''to get out there and see what I can do.''
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