Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley ‘to step away from football at this time’ to focus on his mental health – ESPN

ATLANTA — Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley announced Sunday he has to “step away from football at this time” to focus on his mental health.

Ridley missed his second game of the season Sunday to deal with a personal matter after also not traveling to London for the team’s game against the New York Jets on Oct. 10. He played against the Miami Dolphins last week.

“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 said in a statement on Twitter. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future.”

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith declined to go into details about what Ridley is dealing with after his team’s 19-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. He had learned of the receiver’s absence Sunday morning.

“Calvin’s dealing with something personal,” Smith said. “And it’s going to remain personal on my end. Calvin’s statement speaks for him, and so when we got here today, we talked and put him inactive.”

Ridley’s teammates expressed support for him as he deals with his undisclosed personal issue, as they did in the days after he didn’t travel to London with the Falcons earlier this month.

“Certainly wish Calvin all the best,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We love him and support him and he’s a great friend and a great person, so we all support him as he’s going through this.”

Ridley, 26, has 31 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns this season. He was present at all of Atlanta’s practices this week and was at a community event in the city that was held by the team.

Ridley briefly discussed the personal issue when he spoke with the media on Oct. 21 — the last time he talked with the media — but declined to get into detail about what he has been dealing with.

“I mean, in today’s world, me personally, it shouldn’t matter, you should mind your business,” Ridley said about understanding why people would be interested in what’s going on. “But in today’s world, yeah, I do. To me, if I say it’s personal, that means it’s personal.”

Ridley said then he believed it would be a short-term issue.

The Falcons threw for 146 yards in Ridley’s absence, with veteran receiver Tajae Sharpe leading Atlanta’s receivers with five catches for 58 yards. Ryan targeted Sharpe, Mike Davis and Kyle Pitts six times each and Cordarrelle Patterson five times. Ridley had been targeted 10 or more times in each of the last four games he played in.

“We are keeping him in our prayers and any time one of our brothers is hurting, we’re hurting as well,” Sharpe said. “So we feel for Calvin and are here for him whenever he needs us and whenever he’s ready to get back to playing football.

“But obviously his mental health is number one and the safety of his family and his health. So whatever he needs from us, we’re going to support no matter what and we’re just going to try to do our job while he’s away until we can get him back.”

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