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Calvin Ridley was widely criticized for betting in 2021 on the Atlanta Falcons while on a break from that team.
After he served his yearlong suspension and was reinstated to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, the wide receiver wrote a personal essay for The Player’s Tribune in which he said, “I made the worst mistake of my life by gambling on football.”
Along with taking responsibility for his actions, Ridley, 28, revealed that he was battling depression after his house was broken into and that he played the 2020 season, where he had 1,374 receiving yards, with a broken foot. He rushed back from surgery and survived on painkillers for the first part of the 2021 season until he hit exhaustion and had to take a break from football. It was during this time that he bet on the Falcons.
“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,” he wrote in the essay, which was published Wednesday. “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.”
He said the bet was part of a parlay with NBA games and that he included the Falcons just to show support to his teammates.
“Whenever people ask, ‘What were you thinking?’ The only answer I can give is, ‘I wasn’t,'” he shared. “When you’re depressed, you’re not thinking about anything in the future. You’re just trying to get through the day.”
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Ridley described a troubled childhood in which he and his siblings grew up in foster care. Despite the many hardships he faced, the day he was summoned by the NFL to discuss his gambling was the “worst day of my life,” he said.
He said he is hopeful that his new start with the Jaguars will give him a chance at a legacy beyond his mistake. He will be joining rising star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who led Jacksonville to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs last year.
“Football saved my life. It’s still my purpose. I still love it, maybe now more than ever,” Ridley said. “… I know I have a debt to pay back to the game. But when y’all talk about the name Calvin Ridley in 10, 20, 30 years … I’m gonna make sure it rings out for the right reasons.”