In the past two NFL seasons, All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Ridley has only played in five games.
The former first-round pick was suspended for the entire 2022 season for violating the league’s wagering policy.
In an open letter sent to Players’ Tribune on Wednesday, Ridley revealed some of the issues he’s faced since deciding to walk away from the Falcons during the 2021 season. He also admitted he made a mistake when he decided to place a series of bets on NFL games.
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«I screwed up,» Ridley wrote. «I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. In 2021, I made the worst mistake of my life betting on football.»
«I paid the price, believe me. I’ve seen all the jokes. I’ve seen all the hate. And I can take all of that, no problem. All I want is for people to understand that, when I made those I bet a lot happened to me. more things.
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The Atlanta Falcons traded Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars in November in a complex deal involving multiple draft picks. Ridley, who turned 28 in December, shared some of the setbacks he experienced growing up in the South Florida area and how soccer helped him find purpose.
“Since I was eight years old I was alone. It’s crazy but I know the exact date: October 31, 2002,” she wrote. «We were having our little Halloween party at school. Out of the blue, my aunt came and picked me and my three younger brothers up. The next thing I know, she’s dropping us off somewhere at random with a bunch of strangers. it was a foster home for kids in distress. But I didn’t know where I was or what was going on. No one would tell me anything. It was just, «Your mom and dad went away for a while. You have to stay. here.'»
Ridley also revealed that he struggled for much of the 2020 season with a broken foot. Despite the injury, he had the best season of his professional career, racking up 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games. After the season, he was named a second-team All-Pro.
The following year, star wide receiver Julio Jones was no longer with the Falcons and Ridley became the team’s No. 1 receiver. He got off to a slow start on the field during the first few games of the 2021 season. In the letter, he noted that his struggles with depression and anxiety made him a «shell» of himself.
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«That’s when the anxiety really started. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t want to let anyone down. My plan was to spend another season on pills and injections. 1 a shell of myself, but I played.»
During his time away from football, Ridley placed bets on NFL games, including a combination on the Falcons that led to his indefinite suspension.
«I just screwed up. Period,» he wrote. «In a dark moment, I made a stupid mistake. I wasn’t trying to cheat in the game. That’s what I want to make clear. At that point, I had been completely away from the team for about a month. I was still so depressed. and angry, and the days were so long. I was looking for anything to take my mind off things and make the day go by faster. One day, I saw a TV commercial for a gambling app, and for whatever reason, I downloaded it on my phone I deposited like $1,500 total literally just to do something I was going to bet like $200 on some NBA games that night but then I added a bunch more games to a parlay to put the Falcons in that. I was just doing it to cheer my guys on, basically. I didn’t have any inside information. I wasn’t even talking to anyone on the team at the time. I was totally off the grid.»
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But the former Alabama football standout said the time out helped him restart, and he’s looking forward to a fresh start in Jacksonville.
«Right now, I feel stronger than ever, mentally and physically,» he wrote. «On the field, I’m flying. Trust me, I’m flying. That GPS band doesn’t lie. In my daughter’s name, am I healthy? With Trevor Lawrence? I’m giving Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period.»