Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley on football gambling: 'I made the worst mistake of my life'

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 24: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) during the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins on October 24, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Calvin Ridley has moved on from the struggles of his time as an Atlanta Falcon. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NFL announced Monday that Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been fully reinstated one year after he was indefinitely suspended for violating the league's gambling policy. Immediately eligible to participate in all team activities, the wideout took some time to address the past before beginning his new chapter.

“I f***ed up. I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. In 2021, I made the worst mistake of my life by gambling on football,” Ridley wrote in an open letter via The Players’ Tribune.

With Ridley’s suspension came plenty of scrutiny, jokes from fans and even a condemning statement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The 28-year-old is aware of it all and takes accountability, but wants people to know there’s more to the story.

The letter details Ridley’s experience playing the full 2020 season for the Atlanta Falcons on an injured foot. He says that an MRI showed he had a bone bruise, which convinced him to continue taking Toradol shots from a team doctor despite his suspicions that the injury was more severe.

He finished the season with 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns, but the Falcons’ 4-12 record led to a complete overhaul. With a new staff, including a head coach and trainers, Ridley said he was sent to a specialist who quickly diagnosed him with a broken foot.

Things spiraled from there. According to the letter, he had surgery two months before the 2021 season began and felt pressure to take painkillers to complete workouts. He wrote that he often went home in pain and attempted to be there for his family. He pushed himself to play Week 1 and when he came home, he saw that their house had been robbed. A prosecutor later announced Ridley was among a group of celebrities in Atlanta whose homes were targeted by a local gang.

The letter details that Ridley’s wife was traumatized and couldn’t sleep at night. He also felt the “weight of the world” on his chest, something he didn’t realize at the time was anxiety. According to the letter, Ridley was not wholly supported by the Falcons, which caused him to step away from the team.

Ridley is in a different place now

Even though he spoke to a therapist during that time, Ridley’s letter mentions that he was isolated and overwhelmed. He was left with the effects of a rough childhood, which saw his father deported to Guyana and his mother jailed. He was the oldest sibling, attempting to comfort his brothers in a foster home. He eventually found football as an outlet, then he found himself without it. Ridley made the decision to gamble after a month away from the team,

"I just f***ed up. Period. In a dark moment, I made a stupid mistake. I wasn’t trying to cheat the game," Ridley wrote. "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."

Now, Ridley is in a completely different place and "excited" about his new opportunity. The Jaguars posted multiple videos of his time at their facilities Wednesday.

According to his letter, he’s fast and healthy in training, ready to help his new team reach new heights.

"I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt,” he wrote. “With Trevor Lawrence? I’m giving Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period."