ATLANTA — Joining other well-known athletes who have struggled with mental health issues, Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley said he's stepping away from football after being a last-minute scratch from Sunday's home game against the Carolina Panthers.
It was the second game Ridley has missed this season for what the team would describe only as a personal matter, but Ridley went on social media during Atlanta's 19-13 loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to provide more details on what he's going through.
"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 posted on his Twitter page. "This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future. I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time."
The 26-year-old Ridley, a first-round draft pick out of Alabama in 2018, was coming off the best season of his career in 2020 and seemed likely to take on an even bigger role in the offense after seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones was traded this past summer.
Ridley followed other prominent athletes such as tennis star Naomi Osaka and gold medal gymnast Simone Biles in revealing the mental health challenges that accompany the high pressure of their professions.
When he missed the Falcons' trip to London for an Oct. 10 victory over the New York Jets, the team called it a personal matter and gave no additional details. Ridley returned to the Falcons after their open date and started in a 30-28 road win over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 24. He had four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown that day and has 31 for 281 and two scores this season.
"I'll let Calvin speak for himself," coach Arthur Smith said. "It's a personal issue, so I'm not going to go into any details. We realized he wasn't going to go this morning, and we made him inactive."
Tajae Sharpe started in place of Ridley and led the team with 58 yards on five catches.
"I haven't had a chance to (speak to Ridley), but we're keeping him in our prayers," Sharpe said. "We'll give him his space and let him focus on his mental health and things like that. We'll continue to pray for him."
The loss of Ridley dealt a big blow to a Falcons' offense that has struggled to go deep in the passing game.
Last season Ridley had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, the best statistics of his young NFL career.