Calvin Ridley stepped away from the Falcons -- and the NFL -- after just five games in the 2021 season, citing mental health reasons. The star wide receiver won't be returning anytime soon. A week before the official start of the offseason, the NFL announced Monday that the 27-year-old Ridley has been suspended indefinitely -- at least through the 2022 season -- for betting on NFL games during his absence from football last season.
"(Ridley's illegal) activity took place during a five-day period in late November 2021 while Ridley was not with the team and was away from the club's facility on the non-football illness list," the NFL said in a statement. "A league investigation uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way. Nor was there evidence suggesting any awareness by coaches, staff, teammates, or other players of his betting activity."
Ridley specifically placed parlay bets on various games from his phone, per NFL Media's Mike Garafolo, including Falcons games.
"There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL's success -- and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league -- than upholding the integrity of the game," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Ridley informing the wide receiver of the suspension. "That is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL."
Ridley has since responded to the ordeal, posting on Twitter later Monday that he "bet $1,500 total" along with this rebuttal: "I don't have a gambling problem."
Ridley's Falcons future was already unclear after the former first-round pick did not return to Atlanta after his October departure. Now, he will be ineligible to apply for NFL reinstatement until at least Feb. 15, 2023, assuming he does not successfully appeal his suspension. Ridley's contract will toll one season as a result of his indefinite ban, meaning he is now under contract with the Falcons through at least 2023. That is unless Atlanta makes a subsequent move to release Ridley in the wake of this controversy.
Before his abrupt departure in 2021, Ridley had emerged as one of the NFL's top up-and-coming pass catchers. The Alabama product topped 800 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons, then broke out with 90 catches for 1,347 yards and nine touchdowns and All-Pro honors in 2020.