- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley will ‘step away’ from football to focus on his mental health after being a surprise inactive in Week 8.
- Ridley has played in five games for Atlanta this season catching 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
- The Falcons are 3-4 on the year and in last place in the NFC South.
After being listed as a surprise inactive for the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 8 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Calvin Ridley has announced that he’s going to be out of action for an unspecified length of time to focus on his mental well being. His absence on Sunday was officially listed as a ‘personal matter’, the second time this season that he’s missed a game for a personal issue. He missed the October 10 game against the New York Jets and did not travel with the team to London that week. He played last week against the Miami Dolphins before once again being absent on Sunday.
Ridley hasn’t talked publicly about the specifics of his issue but did post a very eloquent statement on Twitter explaining his decision:
“These past few weeks have been very challenging and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing. This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future. I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time.”
In contrast to the usual toxicity on Twitter the first few fan comments displayed considerable class with comments like ‘We’re behind you Rid. Love’, ‘It takes a big man to admit this. Get well Calvin.’ and ‘Mental health is not something to joke about. Have a ton of respect for you bc of this’. It’s a far cry from the days when Ridley would be expected to ‘suck it up’ by fans, coaches and teammates lest he be considered ‘soft’.
He’s received plenty of support from his teammates including quarterback Matt Ryan:
“Certainly wish Calvin all the best. We love him and support him and he’s a great friend and a great person, so we all support him as he’s going through this.”
More support came from veteran receiver Tajae Sharp:
“We are keeping him in our prayers and any time one of our brothers is hurting, we’re hurting as well. So we feel for Calvin and are here for him whenever he needs us and whenever he’s ready to get back to playing football.”
“But obviously his mental health is number one and the safety of his family and his health. So whatever he needs from us, we’re going to support no matter what and we’re just going to try to do our job while he’s away until we can get him back.”
Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith said that Ridley’s statement speaks for itself:
“Calvin’s dealing with something personal. And it’s going to remain personal on my end. Calvin’s statement speaks for him, and so when we got here today, we talked and put him inactive.”
Ridley spoke with the media on October 21 and clearly has plenty of self awareness, realizing that in the modern news environment it isn’t easy keeping anything ‘personal’ and he understands that people want to know the details of his situation:
“I mean, in today’s world, me personally, it shouldn’t matter, you should mind your business. But in today’s world, yeah, I do. To me, if I say it’s personal, that means it’s personal.”
There are still plenty of ‘backwards’ components to sports culture but the dramatic shift in the view of mental health is extremely positive. Teams are starting to realize that players that prioritize their mental well-being are not only acting in their best interest but in a way that deserves their support. A major catalyst for this change was current Vegas Golden Knights’ starting goaltender Robin Lehner. Lehner very publicly dealt with substance abuse, bipolar disorder and other issues. Far from being considered ‘soft’, Lehner’s struggles resonated with fans–and fans of opposing teams–who were extremely supportive. It also made him a better player–since dealing with his personal demons he’s become one of the best goalies in the NHL. Best wishes to Ridley and much respect.