At multiple points in his piece, Ridley wrote that he “f—ed up” by using an app on his mobile phone to place $1,500 worth of bets on professional sports events. Some of his wagers included the Atlanta Falcons, for whom he played at the time.
“I was just doing it to root on my boys, basically,” wrote Ridley, who was suspended in March 2022 and traded to the Jaguars in November. “I didn’t have any inside information. I wasn’t even talking to anybody on the team at the time. I was totally off the grid. Whenever people ask, ‘What were you thinking? The only answer I can give is, I wasn’t.’ ”
While taking accountability for his actions, Ridley also cited in his essay a crippling depression that caused him to step away from the Falcons in October 2021. The former Alabama star said it began with a foot injury that proved more severe than he was initially told and prompted him to regularly take painkillers to keep playing. His mental state took a sharp downward turn, Ridley wrote, when he learned the house he shared with his wife and two-year-old daughter had been robbed.
“That’s when I really just started to feel the weight of the world on my chest,” he wrote. “I didn’t have the words for what I was experiencing yet. It felt like I was getting attacked — but almost by something invisible. It’s like I’m getting hit in my chest, 24/7, by somebody I can’t see. … All I wanted was to be at home with my wife and daughter. We were supposed to go play in London, and I just couldn’t leave them. That’s when I finally broke down and told the team that I needed help.”
Ridley, 28, also responded to everyone who had “questioned my toughness and my character” by recounting a childhood spent in exceptionally trying circumstances. The oldest of four brothers, Ridley said he was thrust into a role of “the man at a very young age” after they were placed into Florida’s foster-care system. His parents “lived that fast life,” he wrote, which resulted in his father being deported to Guyana and his mother getting sentenced to jail for several years.
Ridley credited football with having “saved my life” by giving him purpose and a passion. Having been taken away from the sport through his own doing, albeit while going through what he described as “a dark moment,” he wrote in his essay that he now had “a debt to pay back to the game.”
If Ridley’s experience has left him chastened, it hasn’t diminished his confidence in his abilities.
As long as he remains healthy this season, and factoring in the chance to play with and Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ridley predicted he will be “giving Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period.”
The Jaguars said earlier this week that they “look forward to building a relationship with Calvin as both an individual and as a player.”
“Calvin is a proven playmaker,” the Jaguars said in a statement, “and we are excited to see him compete among and with his new teammates, first during our Offseason Program in April and ultimately into the 2023 season, as we collectively pursue a championship for Jacksonville.”
In comments Wednesday to the Jaguars’ website, Ridley reiterated the appreciation to the organization he had expressed in his essay.
“I thank them so much for taking a chance on me early, in that situation,” he said. “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.”
“A year away from the NFL puts a lot of things in perspective for a young man like me,” Ridley added. “Coming back now, it shows me I miss the game more than ever — and that I love football more than ever.”