HomeFootballCalvin Ridley: ‘I love football more than ever’

Calvin Ridley: ‘I love football more than ever’

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Since Jacksonville obtained wide receiver Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons in an NFL trade on Nov. 1, the Jaguars have an 8-3 record. In its 11 games before the trade, Jacksonville had a 3-8 record.

And Ridley hasn’t even played for the Jaguars yet.

Ridley couldn’t join Jacksonville after the trade last season because the NFL had indefinitely suspended him for betting on league games. The former Alabama standout missed the entire 2022 season. The NFL lifted his suspension on Monday.

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“The Jags took me early, man,” Ridley said during a video interview for the NFL team’s media on Wednesday. “I was suspended, and they gave me a chance, they took a shot on me. I thank them so much for taking a chance on me early in that situation. It gave me some energy. I had a team to watch. I had a reason to want to come back and be a great player. And they started playing amazing, so it was really fun for me to watch them get better.”

But as much as he was uplifted by the Jaguars’ stretch run to the playoffs in the 2022 season, Ridley said it wasn’t easy watching football not knowing when he’d play again.

“Having to watch it at home and knowing there’s really nothing I can do to get back into the game until I get approval,” Ridley said. “The game being taken away from me, and I was just like, ‘Man, I can’t sit home all day. I need a job.’ I always worked every day. Football was my job for most of my life, so that was the hardest part – just not being able to run and be a part of a team and feel important at that moment, so it was hard. …

“A year away from the NFL puts a lot of things in perspective for a young man like me. A year away from the game and coming back now, it shows me I miss the game more than ever and that I love football more than ever.”

That’s one reason that Ridley would start the Jaguars’ offseason program right now if he could.

“I wish April 17 was tomorrow,” Ridley said. “That’s what I’m here for. I want to play football. I can’t tell y’all how excited I am.”

Ridley can hardly wait for the 2023 NFL season to start either, and he can play his first game since Oct. 24, 2021.

“It’s going to be amazing for my mom, for my family, for me,” Ridley said. “It’s just going to be a weight off my shoulders because I waited so long to get back to this point. I’m going to be excited to run through that tunnel and show every Jacksonville Jaguar fan who I am.”

RELATED: CALVIN RIDLEY AIMS TO BOUNCE BACK FROM HIS ‘WORST MISTAKE’

The No. 1 choice of the 2021 NFL Draft, Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence started to pay off on his promise in his second season. Ridley thinks he can help Lawrence blossom.

In his most recent full season, Ridley had 90 receptions for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020 for the Falcons.

In 49 NFL regular-season games, Ridley has 248 receptions for 3,342 yards and 28 touchdowns. Only four other receivers in NFL history can match Ridley’s receiving stats through their first 49 games – Odell Beckham Jr., Marques Colston, Mike Evans and A.J. Green.

“He’s a great quarterback – young, smart, got an arm,” Ridley said of Lawrence. “I just know that my tools coming to play with him, I could just see us doing really, really big things. He has the arm strength to reach me.”

FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COVERAGE OF THE NFL, GO TO OUR NFL PAGE

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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