FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Stevan Ridley was hoping to avoid the topic, but the former Patriots running back couldn't escape the questions in his first interview with the New York media.
"Here we go with this DeflateGate," he said Thursday, shaking his head and smiling.
The NFL fined the Patriots $1 million, stripped the organization of two future draft picks and suspended quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season after the Wells Report concluded it was "more probable than not" the Patriots adjusted the air pressure in footballs during a 45-7 win over the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XLIX, though without Ridley, who tore the ACL in his right knee in October.
"You can't please 'em all," Ridley said, in reference to those who criticize the Patriots' Super Bowl run. "You're always going to have somebody that's for you and you're always going to have somebody that's against you. But at the end of the day, the Super Bowl champs are the Super Bowl champs. Footballs deflated or not, it took a lot of hard work to get there. I'm not saying they're right; I'm not saying they're wrong. But what I am saying is you can't take away that they got that title.
"That whole DeflateGate deal, I put that on the Patriots. I'm going to let them deal with that. [Coach] Bill [Belichick] does a good job of making all that go away. So what they've got to do is just focus and play ball."
Asked directly if the Patriots deflated footballs, Ridley said: "You tell me. I don't know what goes on over there. It happened. So I don't even know what the deal is, to be honest."
Ridley spent four seasons in New England before he signed a one-year, $1.25-million contract with the Jets this offseason with only $80,000 guaranteed. He still has love for his former teammates and even joined the Patriots for their White House visit in April.
"I love those guys over there," Ridley said. "It's a rivalry . . . but the truth of the matter is, they gave me my first shot in the NFL, so I'm not going to bad-mouth anybody, I'm not going to say anything that I don't know firsthand. And I'm going to let them deal with their own issues.
"Everybody has their flaws -- me, you, everybody included. They made a mistake. The best thing that can happen is that they deal with that on their own. That has nothing to do with the New York Jets, and this is where I am now."
Having suffered an injury during a contract year, Ridley called the Patriots' Super Bowl win "a little bittersweet."
That's why he's "itching" and "hungry" to get back to the big game. But before the five-year veteran can think about making the trip to Santa Clara, California, for Super Bowl 50, he first needs to get healthy.
According to Jets coach Todd Bowles, Chris Ivory is No. 1 on their running back depth chart, followed by Bilal Powell, Daryl Richardson, Zac Stacy and Ridley. As of now, Bowles isn't sure when Ridley will be able to practice fully
"I see him running straight ahead," he said. "The trainers are going to evaluate his side-to-side stuff, and I guess it's going to depend on how he feels."
Ridley said his knee is "doing well," but he also cautioned, "I really can't predict the future, man."
His sole mission is to be ready by Week 1 of the season.
"When I do hit the field," Ridley said, "I'm making an impact."