Ex-Struggling NFL QB Reacts to Falcons’ Calvin Ridley’s Decision

Ryan Lead, Calvin ridley

Getty Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons.

On Sunday, Oct. 31 versus the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, was deemed inactive due to personal reasons––marking the second time that happened this season.

His unknown absence raised a lot of questions and concerns. However, Falcons fans received some clarity in the second half after Ridley announced that he would be stepping away from football until further notice:

“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 wrote on Twitter. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future. I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time.”

His decision struck at least a week of open and honest mental health discussions across the NFL and still, the hard topic continues to linger.

Former NFL QB Ryan Leaf Reacts to Calvin Ridley’s Decision

More recently, former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf joined the Rich Eisen Show where he shared his reaction to Ridley’s decision and what kind of reaction he would have received in 1998––if he chose to step away from football to resolve his mental issues back then.

“I would have been crucified,” Leaf said. “1998, they would have looked at me like I was nuts. Let’s put it this way, Rich. There’s never been a trailblazer for any of this. So, when I was deciding on whether or not I was continuing to play, I was in Seattle. Mike Holmgren was the head coach and instead of walking into his office and going ‘Mike I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t get out of bed. I feel sad all the time. I feel lazy. I don’t know what to do can you help me?’––There’s been no one in my lifetime, growing up in Montana with the cowboy culture and in locker rooms, I’ve never seen another man actually do that.

“So, how was I supposed to know to do something like that in that moment? The moment was too overwhelming for me as a 21-year-old trying to lead a bunch of men. It would have not been accepted. And it would have never have crossed my mind to say something like that because that wasn’t a solution I could use.

“Wow, that blows my mind right now.”

Heading into the 1998 NFL Draft, Leaf and Peyton Manning were considered to be the top two QB prospects out of the class. Leaf, a former Heisman Trophy candidate out of Washington State, would go second overall to the LA Chargers, after Manning.

Unfortunately, Leaf’s NFL career was cut short due to his own mental health issues, but instead of being able to open up about it, he turned to drugs and other poor choices. Even nine years after his career ended with the Seattle Seahawks, his substance abuse continued and he would go on to spend some time behind bars.

Since then, he’s turned his life around and is an ambassador for several sober living houses in Los Angeles and New York. He also works as a college football analyst and radio host.

If he had the resources, platforms and support as Ridley and many other athletes do today, who knows where Leaf would be, but according to him, he’s right where he needs to be.

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HC Arthur Smith Also Appeared on the Rich Eisen Show

Falcons’ head coach also made an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show where he backed Ridley’s decision and expressed the importance of mental health awareness and not just for players.

“With all our players, we care about every person we have in this building,” said Smith. “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 came 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.”

As of Week 9, Ridley has been placed on the non-injury list, which means he’ll miss at least three games before returning.


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