Ridley said in a piece posted on The Players’ Tribune that he was not in a good place after leaving the Atlanta Falcons to concentrate on his mental health when he downloaded a gambling app, deposited $1,500, and bet on NBA and NFL games, including the Falcons.
“I just f—ed up. Period.” Ridley wrote. “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. At the time, I had been away from the team for about a month. I was still just so depressed and angry, and the days were so long. I was just looking for anything to take my mind off of things and make the day go faster.”
Ridley said he lost his joy for football and what started his journey to that point was playing through a foot injury for the entire 2020 season, when he caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards. Ridley said he was told he had a bone bruise and took pain-killing injections to play and then found out he had a broken bone in his foot when he saw a specialist two months before the 2021 season began.
Ridley said he got surgery and rushed to training camp but felt mentally drained. He still needed painkillers to play and was unable to spend quality time with his daughter because he couldn’t do anything but lie down in a dark room.
That’s when his anxiety cranked up, Ridley wrote, and it got worse when he returned home following the Falcons’ season opener to learn burglars had broken into his house. Security footage showed five or six armed men in the house and that scared him and traumatized his wife, he wrote.
“That’s when I really just started to feel the weight of the world on my chest,” Ridley wrote. “I didn’t have the words for what I was experiencing yet. It felt like I was getting attacked — but almost by something invisible. It’s like I’m getting hit in my chest 24/7 by somebody I can’t see.”
Ridley said he tried to continue to play hurt but wanted to be home with his wife and daughter. He didn’t want to make the trip to London for the Falcons’ game against the New York Jets on Oct. 7, and he told the team he needed help. That’s when he started talking to a therapist.
Ridley said being called in front of NFL investigators to be questioned about the bets in November 2021 was “probably the worst day of his life.”
“… Whenever people ask, ‘What were you thinking?” the only answer I can give is, ‘I wasn’t,'” Ridley wrote. “When you’re depressed, you’re not thinking about anything in the future. You’re just trying to get through the day.”
Ridley said that was rock bottom for him but says he now feels stronger mentally and physically than he has ever felt and he’s looking forward to his return to the game — and to expect big things with the Jaguars.
“On my daughter’s name, if I’m healthy? With Trevor Lawrence? I’m giving Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period,” he wrote.