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Lead Atlanta Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley chose to step away from football on Oct. 31: an abrupt announcement citing mental health matters as the reason.
Ridley was named a second-team All-Pro selection in 2020 after recording 90 receptions, 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The Falcons drafted Ridley in 2018 and exercised his fifth-year option on May 3, 2021.
Announced Thursday, the receiver is eyeing a return to football, with the condition of a “fresh start” in his outlook.
As relayed by Falcon Report, sources have been looking at Atlanta’s relationship with Ridley and gauging that a reunion is in serious doubt. NFL Network’s Steve Wyche claimed that “both sides could be looking for a fresh start.”
Following Ridley’s indefinite departure from football leading up to Week 8, head coach Arthur Smith spoke out to support the wideout’s decision to address his mental health before mulling a return.
“With all our players, we care about every person we have in this building,” Smith said during an interview on The Rich Eisen Show. “This football staff is a part of this team, from the equipment room, the video room, to the players, to the coaches, to everybody that’s part of this team. I think what you’re realizing now is, in football you can see physical injuries.
“As we realize in society, certainly some things have come to light, whether it was COVID or the things that have gone on with mental health. You look at the veterans coming out of 20 years of warfare. There’s a lot of invisible injuries and they’re serious and anybody that needs help with anything, whether it’s a visible injury or invisible injury, we’ll do everything we can to help them.”
Since last year’s disappointing 4-12 season, the Falcons have worked on rebuilding the team’s identity, yet missing plenty of help on offense to pull off the feat.
While still in the middle ranks of franchise quarterbacks, Matt Ryan, 36, faces the latter end of his career without a receivers group to propel the meager offense.
Cutting ties with Julio Jones in the offseason, Atlanta and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone have relied on a tandem attack of rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and journeyman wideout Cordarelle Patterson this year.
Pitts made the most out of his opportunity this season: becoming the second rookie tight end in NFL history to amass 1,000 receiving yards. He was named as a selection to this year’s Pro Bowl class.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela