Two days after being fully reinstated by the NFL following a season-long suspension, Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Calvin Ridley wrote in an article for The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday that he “made the worst mistake of my life by gambling on football.”
“I paid the price, believe me,” Ridley wrote. “I’ve seen all the jokes. I’ve seen all the hate. And I can shoulder all of that, no problem. All I want is for people to understand that, when I made those bets, there was a hell of a lot more going on with me.”
In the letter detailing his struggles, Ridley wrote, “Back then, I was depressed. I was battling anxiety. I didn’t even want to leave my house. Football was the only thing that ever gave my life meaning, and I couldn’t even find any joy in that at the time. Honestly, I couldn’t even get up off the chair in my living room. Everything was just … dark.”
Ridley played four games in 2021 for the Atlanta Falcons before the team announced he would miss time to focus on his mental health. After missing two weeks, he returned for one game before leaving the team again and later announcing he would be stepping away indefinitely. In March 2022, the NFL announced that Ridley would be suspended at least through the 2022 season for gambling on NFL games, including Falcons contests. Ridley acknowledged at the time that he did bet on games.
“I just f–ed up. Period,” Ridley wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “In a dark moment, I made a stupid mistake. I wasn’t trying to cheat the game. That’s the thing I want to make clear. At the time, I had been completely away from the team for about a month. I was still just so depressed and angry, and the days were so long. I was looking for anything to take my mind off of things and make the day go by faster.
“One day, I saw a TV commercial for a betting app, and for whatever reason, I downloaded it on my phone. I deposited like $1,500 total, literally just for something to do. I was going to bet like $200 on some NBA games that night, but then I just added a bunch more games to a parlay. I put the Falcons in on it. I was just doing it to root on my boys, basically. 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.’ When you’re depressed, you’re not thinking about anything in the future. You’re just trying to get through the day.”
The Falcons selected Ridley with the 26th pick of the 2018 draft out of Alabama. He had 821 receiving yards as a rookie, 866 in his second season and exploded for 1,374 yards in 2020. The Falcons traded Ridley to the Jaguars in November in exchange for draft compensation. He was able to petition for reinstatement on Feb. 15.
In his letter, Ridley wrote: “Right now, I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt — mentally and physically. On the field, I’m flying. Believe me, I’m flying. … I want to thank the Jaguars for showing faith in me, and understanding me as a human being who made a mistake.”
(Photo: Dale Zanine / USA Today)