January 01 2022 12:00 am

Falcons WR Ridley misses game to deal with mental health

Sports

FILE – Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) makes a diving touchdown reception in front of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Ross Cockrell (43) during the second half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla., in this Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, file photo. Matt Ryan is looking to see the Atlanta Falcons’ offense continue its improvement when the team returns from its bye week for Sunday’s game in Miami. Having top target Calvin Ridley back in the lineup should help the offense. Ryan said Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, Ridley “was flying around” in his return to practice after missing the Falcons’ last game for personal reasons. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Joining other well-known athletes who have struggled with mental health issues, Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley said he’s stepping away from football after being a last-minute scratch from Sunday’s game against Carolina.

It was the second game that Ridley has missed this season for what the team would only describe as a personal matter.

But Ridley went on social media during Atlanta’s 19-13 loss to the Panthers to provide more details on what he’s going through.

“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 his Twitter page.

He thanked the Falcons for their understanding, while giving no timetable for his possible return to the playing field.

“This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future,” he said.

Coming off the best season of his career in 2020 and expected to claim an even bigger role in the offense after Julio Jones was traded, Ridley followed other prominent athletes such as tennis star Naomi Osaka and gold medal gymnast Simone Biles in revealing the mental-health challenges of their high-pressure professions.

Ridley also missed the Falcons’ trip to London for an Oct. 10 victory over the New York Jets. The team called it a personal matter and gave no additional details.

Ridley returned to the Falcons after a bye week and started in last week’s 30-28 victory over the Miami Dolphins. He had only four catches for 26 yards but did score a touchdown.

For the season, Ridley has 31 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’ll let Calvin speak for himself,” coach Arthur Smith said. “It’s a personal issue, so I’m not going to go into any details. We realized he wasn’t going to go this morning and we made him inactive.”

Tajae Sharpe started in place of Ridley and led the team with 58 yards on five catches.

“I haven’t had a chance to (speak to Ridley) but we’re keeping him in our prayers,” Sharpe said. “We’ll give him his space and let him focus on his mental health and things like that. We’ll continue to pray for him.”

The loss of Ridley dealt a big blow to a Falcons’ offense that has struggled to go deep in the passing game.

Last season, the 2018 first-round draft pick out of Alabama had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, the best season of his four-year NFL career.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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AP Sports Writer George Henry contributed to this report.

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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