Calvin Ridley did not play on Sunday, with the Falcons characterizing the absence as a personal matter, the second time in the last three games that has happened. Speculating about what was going on with Ridley seemed like a bad idea—I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people trying to figure out what kind of struggles I might be having in my personal life—but I think every Falcons fan was wondering if Ridley was okay and what was going on nonetheless.
We still don’t know, and if Ridley is as private about his life as I think he is, we may never know. Nonetheless, Ridley released a statement on Sunday which seemed to indicate that he has stepped away for the sake of his “mental wellbeing” and there’s no evident timeline for his return.
I put mental wellbeing in quotes because I don’t want to misrepresent what Ridley said. Throughout my career as a Falcons blogger, I’ve struggled a lot with my own mental health and probably not been quite the advocate for athlete mental health I could have been and should have been. I write that not to steal the spotlight, but to acknowledge that it is difficult to admit that you’re struggling and to afford the same grace to others that you desperately wish others would extend to you, and I know that Calvin Ridley is likely in a dark place to not only admit this but to take time away from the career he excels at.
We all want him out there on the field—that’s a natural fan impulse—but recognizing that he needs this time to take care of not just his career but his personal well being is something that matters a great deal. In the end, we’re just very passionate observers of other peoples’ lives and careers, and we need to recognize when trying to exert the strong affection we feel for our favorite teams and players to compel them to play is doing more harm than good.
The Falcons are capping off an ugly loss to the Panthers without Ridley. Chances are good that they’ll need to adapt to life without their star receiver for the foreseeable future, so my hope is that Ridley is able to take the time he needs to feel healthy and happy again and we’ll see him at some point in the future on the field for the Falcons. We all deserve to take the opportunity to take care of ourselves.