Calvin Ridley’s letter to the game Is the closure fans needed

Oct 3, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) runs after a catch against the Washington Football Team in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) runs after a catch against the Washington Football Team in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The NFL has been hosting its International Series since 2007. The Falcons have played in two International Series games. The first was in 2014 versus the Detroit Lions. The second was in 2021 versus the New York Jets. It was the latter game in which Falcons fans became aware that something was amiss with Calvin Ridley.

Just three days ahead of the London game, Michael Rothstein of ESPN reported that Ridley would not be making the trip with the team due to an “undisclosed personal matter.”  With no prior indication from the team that anything was wrong,  speculation was rampant in the fan base as to what kind of personal matter could cause Ridley to miss the game across the pond.

2021 was set to be an important season for Ridley. With the sudden and unexpected departure of Julio Jones in May of that year, Ridley was the team’s WR1. Fans looked forward to seeing his production in that role. He had tallied 31 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns prior to taking his leave from the team.

Some fans wondered if Ridley was feeling the pressure of being the WR1. Others wondered if it was a ploy to no longer play for the Falcons. There was some speculation that maybe whatever discontent Julio Jones had for the team, Ridley may have had it too. Whatever fans may have thought, many expressed their sentiments toward Calvin Ridley by directly tagging him in their social media posts.

Other Falcons fans opted to give Ridley some grace once he publicly declared he was dealing with his mental health. This was not the first time an active player on the Falcons disclosed this information. In May of 2022, Hayden Hurst, who was a TE for the Falcons at the time, talked about fighting depression. Hurst, a survivor of a 2016 suicide attempt, decided to share his story, which you can read here. 

The Falcons finished the 2021 season without Calvin Ridley. He never appeared with the team or on the sidelines. Falcons fans hoped that with the time off, he would be ready to rejoin the team and be the WR1 everyone hoped for post the Julio Jones era. However, that would not come to pass as the NFL suspended Ridley for the entire 2022 season for betting on games.

While many fans were understanding of Ridley taking the time he needed to be away from the team to address his mental health needs, fans were understandably unforgiving when it came to his betting. Nicknames like Calvin Rose and Pete Ridley were plentiful on social media with the accompanying memes to boot. By this point, for many Falcons fans, it was a foregone conclusion that Ridley would never wear a Falcons’ uniform again. In November 2022, the Falcons traded Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars for some “conditional draft capital.”

Once the trade was announced, many Falcons fans were glad to move on from Calvin Ridley’s time with the team. Some felt like he squandered what could have been a promising career. In an article published by the Players Tribune, Ridley provided insight into all that he had been dealing with during the 2021 season. This included a foot injury and fighting depression. He also spoke on the challenging conditions he faced as a child growing up and the frame of mind he was in when he placed the bets which violated the NFL’s gambling policy.

One of the closing paragraphs in the article was quite poignant.

"I want to thank the Jaguars for showing faith in me, and understanding me as a human being who made a mistake. It feels so good to be back home in Florida, where this dream started, with a clean slate. But also I want to make it clear that I don’t have a bad word to say about the Falcons or the city of Atlanta. That’s still my second home, and where my daughter was born. I tried to give y’all everything I had, until the wheels came off. It’s all love, forever."

For many Falcons fans, this was enough to soften their hearts against any ill feelings they may have previously harbored toward Ridley. He owned up to his mistakes and expressed his love for the team that drafted him and the city of Atlanta. Ridley gave Falcons fans the closure that his predecessor did not with his public statement to Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless when he said, “I’m outta there.”

A fresh start for both parties is a win-win. Also based on the trade details, the better Ridley performs in Jacksonville, the better it is for the Falcons and their future draft picks.

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