Back in the NFL after a year-long ban for violating the league’s gambling policy, Calvin Ridley wants people to know he doesn’t make excuses for his actions.

“In 2021, I made the worst mistake of my life by playing football,” the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver wrote in an essay published by the Players’ Tribune on Wednesday.

At several points in his article, Ridley wrote that he “screwed up” by using an app on his cell phone to place $1,500 worth of bets on professional sporting events. Some of his bets included the Atlanta Falcons, for whom he was playing at the time.

“I basically just did it to cheer on my boys,” wrote Ridley, who was suspended in March 2022 and joined the Jaguars in November. “I had no inside information. I didn’t speak to anyone on the team at the time. I was completely off the grid. Whenever people ask, “What were you thinking? The only answer I can give is: It wasn’t me.’ ”

While Ridley took responsibility for his actions, his essay also cited a crippling depression that prompted him to retire from the Falcons in October 2021. The former Alabama star said it started with a foot injury that turned out to be more serious than he was initially told and prompted him to take regular pain medication to keep playing. Ridley wrote that his mental state took a sharp turn when he learned that the home he shared with his wife and two-year-old daughter had been robbed.

“That’s when I really started to feel the weight of the world on my chest,” he wrote. “I still had no words for what I experienced. It felt like I was being attacked – but almost by something invisible. It’s like getting hit in mine Breast, 24/7, by someone I can’t see. … All I wanted was to be at home with my wife and daughter. We were supposed to be playing in London and I just couldn’t leave them. That’s when I finally broke down and told the team I needed help.”

Ridley, 28, also responded to those who had “questioned my toughness and character” by recounting a childhood spent in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Ridley, the eldest of four brothers, said he was pushed into the role of “the man at a very young age” after they were accepted into Florida’s foster care system. His parents “lived this fast life,” he wrote, which resulted in his father being deported to Guyana and his mother sentenced to several years in prison.

Ridley credited football with “saving my life” by giving it a purpose and a passion. After being pulled from the sport through his own actions, despite going through what he called a “dark moment,” he wrote in his essay that he now had “a debt to the game to repay.”

If Ridley’s experience has chastised him, it hasn’t diminished his confidence in his abilities.

As long as he stays healthy this season and considers the chance to play with Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ridley predicted he’ll “give Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period.”

The Jaguars said earlier this week that they “look forward to developing a relationship with Calvin, both as an individual and as a player.”

“Calvin is a proven playmaker,” the Jaguars said in a statement, “and we’re excited to see him compete among and with his new teammates, first during our offseason program in April and eventually into the 2023 season as we grow together.” a championship for Jacksonville.”

In comments Wednesday on the Jaguars’ website, Ridley reiterated the appreciation for the organization he expressed in his essay.

“I thank them so much for taking a chance on me early on in this situation,” he said. “It gave me some energy. I had a team to watch. I had a reason to come back and be a great player.”

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

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