MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 24: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) during the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Miami Gardens, FL.  (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Calvin Ridley has put the struggles of his Atlanta Falcon days behind him. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NFL announced Monday that Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been fully reinstated a year after his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s gambling policy. Immediately eligible to participate in all team activities, the wideout took some time to come to terms with the past before beginning his new chapter.

“I’ve had enough. I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. In 2021 I made the worst mistake of my life by playing football,” Ridley wrote in an open letter via The Players’ Tribune.

With Ridley’s suspension came a lot of scrutiny, jokes from fans, and even a condemning statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The 28-year-old is aware of this and takes responsibility but wants people to know there is more to the story.

The letter details Ridley’s experience playing the entire 2020 season for the Atlanta Falcons with an injured foot. He says an MRI showed he had a bone contusion, which convinced him to continue taking Toradol shots from a team doctor, although he suspected the injury was more serious.

He finished the season with 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns, but the Falcons’ 4-12 record prompted a complete makeover. With a new team including a head coach and coach, Ridley said he was sent to see a specialist who quickly diagnosed him with a broken foot.

From there things took a turn. According to the letter, he underwent surgery two months before the start of the 2021 season and felt pressured to take painkillers to complete training. He wrote that he often went home in pain and tried to be there for his family. He forced himself to play week 1 and when he got home he saw that their house had been robbed. A prosecutor later revealed that Ridley was among a group of Atlanta celebrities whose homes were attacked by a local gang.

The letter describes that Ridley’s wife was traumatized and could not sleep at night. He also felt the “weight of the world” on his chest, something he didn’t know at the time was fear. According to the letter, Ridley was not fully backed by the Falcons, leading to his retirement from the team.

Ridley is in a different place now

Although he spoke to a therapist during this time, Ridley’s letter mentions that he was isolated and overwhelmed. He was left with the aftermath of a harsh childhood, during which his father was deported to Guyana and his mother imprisoned. He was the eldest sibling trying to comfort his brothers in a foster home. Eventually he found football as an outlet, then he found himself without it. Ridley made the decision to play after being a month away from the team,

“I just messed it up. Point. In a dark moment I made a stupid mistake. I wasn’t trying to cheat the game,” Ridley wrote. “I was still so depressed and angry and the days were so long. I was looking for something to distract myself and make the day go by faster. One day I saw a TV commercial for a betting app and for some reason I downloaded it to my phone. I deposited a total of about $1,500 literally just for something to do. I was going to bet about $200 on some NBA games that night, but then I just added a few more games to a parlay. I got the Falcons to do it. I just did it to cheer on my boys, basically. I had no inside information. I wasn’t speaking to anyone on the team at the time. I was totally off the grid.”

Now Ridley is in a completely different place and “excited” about his new opportunity. The jaguars have posted several videos his time at their facilities Wednesday.

According to his letter, he is fast and healthy in training and ready to help his new team reach new heights.

“I feel stronger than ever,” he wrote. “With Trevor Lawrence? I give Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period.”

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