Falcons’ Calvin Ridley suspended for one year for gambling

Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who left the team midseason to tend to his mental well-being, has been suspended indefinitely, at least through the 2022 season, for violating the NFL’s gambling policy, the league announced Monday.

Ridley bet on NFL games last season, during a five-day stretch in late November, when he was away from the team on the reserve non-football illness list, according to the NFL.

“We were first made aware of the league’s investigation on Feb. 9 (2022),” the Falcons said in a statement. “We have cooperated fully with the investigation since receiving notice and support the league’s findings and actions. We are moving forward in the 2022 season with the decision that was made. With the decision that was made by the NFL, any further questions on the investigation should be directed to the league office.”

Ridley was notified of the suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter.

“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,” Goodell’s letter reads. “This 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.

“For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions.”

Ridley, who was set to enter the fifth year of his contract that was to pay him $11.1 million, can apply for reinstatement on Feb. 15, 2023. He has the right to appeal the suspension.

Ridley’s agent, Pat Dye Jr., did not immediately return a phone call from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ridley took to Twitter with several social media posts including one that read: “I bet 1500 total I don’t have a gambling problem.”

Ridley left the team on Oct. 31 and said in a social media post he wanted to work on his mental well-being. He played in just five games in 2021. He did not return to the team and was placed on the non-football injured list Nov. 5.

Ridley was selected in the first round (26th overall) in the 2018 draft. He has 248 catches for 3,342 yards and 28 touchdowns over three-plus seasons.

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith did not have any updates on Ridley’s situation last Tuesday when they spoke at the scouting combine regarding his mental health.

“It’s not something we can talk about right now,” Fontenot said. “There’s no update on it, and when there is we’ll let you know.”

Smith said, “I know a lot of these guys that cover us locally, they get sick of me saying it, but I don’t have an update.”

They were aware of the gambling accusations as of Feb. 9.

The NFL could be seen as sending mixed signals in recent years on its stand on gambling. The league allowed a team to move to Las Vegas and has entered deals with various betting websites including Draft Kings and Fan Duel.

The Falcons will receive $11.1 million in relief for Ridley’s 2022 contract. The Falcons were $7.3 million over the projected $208.2 million salary cap for the 2022 season.

With Ridley’s situation, the Falcons, who have 24 free agents, are now $4 million under the cap.

Ridley became the fifth player in NFL history suspended for gambling. In 1963, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended for gambling by then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

The loss of Ridley does not affect the Falcons’ outlook much for next season.

“The loss of Ridley hurts the Falcons, but oddsmakers know it doesn’t change much,” OddsChecker spokesperson Kyle Newman said. “They didn’t have Ridley for nearly all of the 2021 season anyway. They need to replace him, but it’s still very possible that they’ll improve on a lackluster receiving corps from a year ago. If/When they do, those odds will shoot right back up, in large part due to the poor standing of the rest of the NFC South.”

Josh Shaw was the last player suspended for gambling in 2019.

Former Colts quarterback Art Schlichter was suspended in 1983.

Hornung and Karras were suspended in the league’s most publicized gambling case back in the 1960s.

Hornung, a running back for the Green Bay Packers, was nicknamed the “Golden Boy” and won the 1956 Heisman Trophy. He won the league’s MVP award in 1961.

Karras was a defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions.

Hornung returned to win two more titles with the Packers and was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Karras, a four-time Pro Bowler, was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, eight years after he passed away.

While Hornung and Karras returned after a year, Schlichter’s career was derailed by a gambling addiction. Shaw has not played in the league since his suspension.

The Bow Tie Chronicles