Falcons Star Calvin Ridley Sits Out NFL Game to Focus on Mental Health

Ridley announced on social media he needed to "step away from football at this time" prior to kickoff on Sunday

Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons looks on during a preseason game
Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons looks on during a preseason game.
Michael Reaves/Getty

On Sunday morning, the Atlanta Falcons found out they would be playing their game against the Carolina Panthers without star receiver Calvin Ridley due to a personal matter.

During Atlanta’s 19-13 loss to the Panthers, Ridley shared what that personal matter was with the world.

“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,” Ridley wrote on Twitter on Sunday afternoon. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future.”

Ridley, who also missed Atlanta’s trip to London for a win over the New York Jets in early October with a personal issue, thanked the organization and his teammates for providing him with support and did not give a timetable for his possible return to the playing field.

Speaking with the media late last month, the 26-year-old briefly alluded to what made him sit out the game against the Jets. “I mean, in today’s world, me personally, it shouldn’t matter, you should mind your business,” Ridley said. “But in today’s world, yeah, I do. To me, if I say it’s personal, that means it’s personal.”

Atlanta coach Arthur Smith, who obviously would have loved to have his star wideout on the field, stuck by Ridley in his postgame comments. “I’ll let Calvin speak for himself,” Smith said. “It’s a personal issue, so I’m not going to go into any details. 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, who was present at all of Atlanta’s practices this week and attended a community event in the city that was held by the team, follows star athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles in revealing that he is dealing with a mental-health challenge and sitting out because of it.

One of Ridley’s peers, Philadelphia Eagles three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson, left his team for “personal reasons” before a home game against Kansas City on October 3. Following Philly’s 44-6 win at Detroit yesterday, he spoke to reporters for the first time since his return to the field and revealed he had to sit out after experiencing withdrawal symptoms after he stopped taking an antidepressant medication.

“Football wasn’t even a question at the time,” Johnson said. “I told a few close friends but really kept it bottled up because I felt ashamed of it. I felt like it was a crutch. But coming back, the support I’ve had from the team, from my friends, from my family, I couldn’t ask for nothing better. And getting out here and playing football again, you’re reminded how lucky you are to be in the position that you are in. So, taking it day by day.”

A second-team All-Pro in 2020 after tallying career highs in catches (90) and yards (1,374) with nine touchdowns, Ridley has 31 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season.

The Falcons will welcome Ridley back once he’s ready, but the team should be commended in the meantime for sticking by him while he gets himself mentally ready to return to the football field.

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