ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended for the 2022 season for betting on NFL games in 2021.
The suspension announced Monday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell relates to activities that took place while Ridley was away from the team to address mental health issues. The league says the suspension will continue “at least until the end of the 2022 season”.
The NFL says betting took place over a five-day period at the end of November 2021. Ridley was placed on the non-football illness list after Week 8 last season, which ended November 1.
A league investigation found no insider evidence that insider information was used or that a game was compromised by Ridley’s bets, according to Goodell’s announcement. There was also no evidence to suggest that Falcons coaches, players or staff were aware of Ridley’s betting activity.
Ridley can seek reinstatement after February 23, 2023.
During the offseason, the Falcons had no updates on Ridley’s status. The team released a statement on Monday saying they had cooperated with the league’s investigation over the past month.
“We were first notified of the league’s investigation on February 9,” the Falcons said in the statement. “We have cooperated fully with the investigation since receiving the notice and support the league’s findings and actions. We are moving forward in the 2022 season with the decision that has been made. With the decision that has been made by the NFL, any further questions about the investigation should be directed to the league office.
In a letter from Goodell to Ridley, the commissioner said:
“There is nothing more fundamental to the success of the NFL – and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league – than maintaining the integrity of the game.
“It is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, match official and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions have endangered the integrity of the game, threatened to damage public confidence in football professional and potentially undermined the reputation of your fellow players throughout the NFL.
“For decades, betting on NFL games has been considered one of the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most significant sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for responding promptly to an interview and admitting your actions.”
Even before the suspension, Ridley’s future with the Falcons was uncertain. He missed the final two months of the season after being knocked out at the last minute before the team’s 19-13 loss to Carolina on October 31.
That day, Ridley explained his absence when he wrote on his Twitter account “I have to step away from football at the moment and focus on my mental well-being.”
Ridley had not posted any updates on his Twitter account until Friday, when he posted a soccer ball icon and added “c’est la vie”. On Sunday, he added another “I’m learning from my L’s” update.
The Falcons’ 2018 first-round pick had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. Ridley was expected to be quarterback Matt Ryan’s top point guard after Julio Jones was traded to Tennessee ahead of the 2021 season But Ridley had just 31 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns during his shortened season.
The Falcons were about $7.3 million over the salary cap for 2022. They will be able to remove Ridley’s $11.1 million salary from their payroll for the season, moving them below the cap. This contract goes to 2023, when Ridley would have been a free agent.
Goodell suspended Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw in November 2019 for betting on an NFL game. Shaw has not played in the league since his suspension; he missed 21 games from the 2019 and 2020 schedules.
The most famous discipline of NFL players for gambling came in 1963 when then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended Green Bay star running back Paul Hornung and defensive tackle Alex Karras. of Detroit – both now Hall of Famers. Each have been sidelined for this season, with Rozelle citing bets on league games and associating with players or “known thugs”.
Twenty years later, Rozelle suspended Colts quarterback Art Schlichter, who was in only his second professional season.
“Schlichter will not be reinstated,” Rozelle said, “until the league can be firmly assured that the serious violations of cardinal NFL rules he has committed will not be repeated.”
Schlichter was reinstated and played in 1984 and 1985. But he couldn’t kick the gambling habit and eventually ended up in jail for a multi-million dollar ticket scam.