Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley penned an emotional letter to The Players Tribune discussing the past two years for him. Those have included a leave of absence from the Falcons, a year-long suspension for gambling and ultimately a trade to the Jaguars.
“To the football world, and everyone who loves this game: I f***ed up,” he wrote. “I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. In 2021, I made the worst mistake of my life by gambling on football. I paid the price, believe me. 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.”
Ridley shared some new details, including that he played the entire 2020 season with a broken foot that was misdiagnosed. He added that he battled anxiety and depression and it got so bad in 2021 that he had to step away from the Falcons.
“This is hard for a dude like me to talk about, but I want to be real with everybody. 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 also discussed his mistake that led to his year-long suspension for gambling.
“I just f***ed up. Period. 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 the NFL investigators called me in, that was probably the worst day of my life. Seeing my mom googling my name … and everything people were saying about her son…. That broke me down, man. But honestly, maybe I had to go through all of it. Maybe I had to hit rock bottom so I could get healthy. Thank God, with the help of my therapist, I was able to understand what was happening to me. I learned the names for the things that I was feeling — stress, depression, anxiety — and how to cope with those emotions.”
However, Ridley closes the letter by saying he feels better than ever, both physically and mentally, and he’s ready to make an impact for his new team.
“Right now, I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt — mentally and physically. On the field, I’m flying. Believe me, I’m flying. That GPS band don’t lie. On my daughter’s name, if I’m healthy? With Trevor Lawrence? I’m giving Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period. 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.”
- Ian Rapoport reports Texans S M.J. Stewart‘s two-year deal carries a max value of $7.5 million, including a $1.5 million signing bonus and $1.5 million guaranteed, including $250,000 in per-game roster bonuses.
- Stewart will earn $2.75 million in 2023 and have $750,000 in possible incentives for years of his deal.
- According to Aaron Wilson, Texans C Scott Quessenberry‘s one-year deal carries a base value of $2.1 million with a maximum value of $3 million through playing time incentives.
Titans HC Mike Vrabel has been impressed with QB Malik Willis‘ work ethic this offseason.
“He’s already dove into the offseason, and he’s communicated with the staff about where he’s been, working with different coaches, a group in Jacksonville, and reporting back,” Vrabel said, via the team’s website. “His demeanor, walking through the building and seeing him in the cafeteria, he understands what it is supposed to look like, being a starting quarterback, being a quarterback in this league. You have to be on when you come in the building, it’s a certain presence you have to have.”
Titans OC Tim Kelly is also pleased with the progress Willis has made.
“Malik is doing a great job coming into the building every day, having a good routine right now,” Kelly said. “He is so charismatic, comes in, pops his head in with a big ol’ smile, and it’s exciting to see him in that routine, doing what it takes to be a professional quarterback. We’ll see where everything ends up, but we’re excited with the progress that it looks like he’s made.”
Titans GM Ron Carthon added that his communication with Willis has been great since he’s arrived in Tennessee and he’s hoping to see him take the next step as a leader in the locker room.
“The one thing I talked to Malik about was just to continue to grow as a quarterback, and that is not just throwing the ball, and not all these different things,” Carthon said. “A quarterback is so much more mental than it is physical, and from that standpoint I just talked to him about being able to lead the locker room, being able to have that presence and just continuing just to reach out to some of the greats in our games, and guys that (could) help him. So, we have been able to connect, and he’s reached out to other quarterbacks in the league to kind of serve as mentors for him, which kind of shows you who he is as a person and where he sees himself, and where he wants to go.”
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