If anyone knows the pitfalls of gambling, it’s Calvin Ridley.
Back in 2020, the receiver had the world at his feet. Named a second team All-Pro despite playing the majority of the year with a broken foot, Ridley seemed ready to become one of the league’s most dangerous pass catchers. And yet, by the end of October that year, the former Falcon had stepped away from football to focus on his mental health.
That was when the problems really began.
In March 2022, Ridley was suspended indefinitely for gambling on NFL games that previous season. He forfeited his $11m salary, and was unceremoniously traded to Jacksonville before the year was out.
Ridley was reinstated back in March, almost a year to the day he was first suspended. He wrote an emotional open letter via the Players Tribune explaining the adversity he had been through. “I f***ed up. I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. In 2021, I made the worst mistake of my life by gambling on football… …I paid the price, believe me.”
Looking rejuvenated with the Jaguars in OTA’s so far, Ridley appears to have turned a corner in his career. But speaking to the Florida Times-Union earlier this week, he cut a frustrated figure when asked about the recent wave of gambling suspensions across the NFL:
“Yeah, it bugs me a little because my NFL buddies didn’t look at me and say, ‘Aw man, hell, that’s serious,’” Ridley told the TU’s Juston Lewis on Monday after the Jaguars held mandatory minicamp.
“I wish they would’ve looked at me and said, ‘Wow, they did him like that? I hope it doesn’t happen to me.’ Because that’s what I would’ve done. If I would’ve seen one of my NFL buddies get slammed like that, I would’ve been a little bit afraid and watching myself. But you know, it is what it is, they have to learn the hard way like I did.”
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson also gave his thoughts on the suspensions that have seen the Detroit Lions lose two players for an entire season (Quintez Cephus, CJ Moore) and another two for six games (Stanley Berryhill, Jameson Williams). Commanders’ defensive end Shaka Toney will also miss gametime, whilst Colts’ cornerback Isaiah Rodgers is currently being investigated for similar breaches of the gambling policy.
Pederson wants to use Ridley’s experience to help the Jaguars steer clear of any disciplinary measures themselves. He told local media on Monday:
“I don’t want to put Calvin in a spotlight situation, I don’t want to bring all this attention on him. But at the same time, I have mentioned to the team that if they’re going through anything or they’re tempted in any way, reach out to Calvin, he’d be a great resource to talk to.”
If the punishments for gambling seem harsh, it’s because they are. The league takes an extremely dim view of any behavior that can put the integrity of the game into question. It does raise questions of hypocrisy considering the NFL has seemingly embraced betting; since 2021, they have partnered with FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet and WynnBET. Draftkings, FanDuel and Caesars followed a year later. Pederson is fully aware that the lure of gambling is all around his team:
“We’re in a day and age where gambling is everywhere. With all the websites that are out there, apps and all that kind of stuff, we have to be very careful.”
Ridley acknowledged that “a couple of guys (already) reached out.” The Jaguars will be hoping the painful lessons their receiver learned will stand them in good stead for 2023 and beyond.