For the second time this season, Calvin Ridley was a surprise scratch dealing with “personal issues,” on Sunday. This time, however, he announced that he would be stepping away from football to address his mental health situation. I initially hesitated to give this the standard Monday “Absurdity Check” moniker, given the seriousness of mental health and the situation with Calvin Ridley. Ultimately, I decided to go away from the standard fare here. Calvin Ridley’s current situation is functionally no different from Derrick Henry’s (the other Absurdity Check for today. He’s a superstar wide receiver whose health has failed him, and he may or may not be out for the year (as of writing this). But, this is different, so no Absurdity Check title for this one today. I don’t want anyone to think any part of mental health is “absurd.”
Now, I feel like I have to defend myself, here. I don’t think Calvin Ridley’s mental health is “functionally no different” from Henry’s from a crass, “what does it matter to me” perspective. I believe that mental health is health. All of us at Football Absurdity do; I won’t put everyone’s business on the streets, but I am on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. I’m not saying this to say that I understand what Calvin Ridley is going through, just like me twisting my ankle isn’t necessarily the same as understanding what Saquon Barkley is going through.
But, that is to say, that I believe that mental health is health. We want to splinter one from the other, but the simple fact of the matter is that Calvin Ridley’s health failed him, and he is addressing it. In that way, this is functionally no different from someone suffering an injury with an indeterminate timeline. Why? Because in both situations, overall health is the central issue.
Now, if Calvin Ridley never plays another down of football, I cannot blame him. The NFL player rolls are filled with players that suffered a career-ending injury. If this happened off the field for Calvin Ridley, so be it. Countless practice squad guys see their dreams die on practice fields in June or July because their physical health failed them. Maybe it’s because they shredded their knee for the third time or because their conditioning isn’t up to snuff. Either way, they had to step away from their dream job.
As for Calvin Ridley’s mental health, it isn’t where he needs to be. Now, we don’t know if he is suffering from an oft-shredded knee or insufficient conditioning. No matter what he’s dealing with, he literally could not have a better teammate than Hayden Hurst to help him through this. Calvin Ridley joins a growing list of star athletes to speak out about mental health, and to take a break to address their struggles. Most notably, Olympian Simone Biles pulled out of the Tokyo games this year to address her mental health, and tennis star Naomi Osaka did not play in The French Open or Wimbledon this year, in an effort to take a step back to address her mental health.
As Naomi Osaka put it: “It’s O.K. to not be O.K.”
And Calvin Ridley isn’t alone on the gridiron, either. The Hayden Hurst Foundation is working on destroying the stigma to encourage people to seek help, as previously mentioned. Eagles’ offensive tackle Lane Johnson also stepped away from the team for three weeks this year to address his mental health. He is currently back with the squad. For as much as people denigrate Josh Gordon for his substance abuse struggles, that, too, is a sign of his underlying mental health issues. Calvin Ridley is not alone.
This is where I take a break from the article to ask you to search your feelings for signs of mental health struggles. It’s a difficult thing to come to terms with, but something we can, and should, all stop to think about. The last 18 months or so will be the most challenging most of us will face in our entire lives. Reach out to a mental health professional, or find a group in your area offering services to assist you. Even if you do not have the means to see a therapist, there are options for you. The important part is that you go for it, and you stick with it. You wouldn’t stop rehabbing an injury after one day because it wasn’t instantly better, you have to do the same with your mental health.
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health to the point of self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Line immediately: 800-273-8255.
Addressing my mental health was the smartest decision I ever made, and I encourage everyone to do the same.
Now, back to football.
So, we’ve established that we are treating Calvin Ridley’s mental health like health. Let’s take a look at how we would handle this if it was an ankle injury or a hamstring injury. We don’t know a lot about the severity of those injuries when they happen. All we know is that we will miss a player from somewhere between a few weeks… and the rest of the year.
In redraft leagues, that’s where we stand with Calvin Ridley. We do not know the severity of his mental health struggles, and we do not know what it will take to get him back on the football field. This could be a Lane Johnson situation, or it could be similar to Chris Borland, who retired from the NFL after his breakout rookie year to address growing concussion concerns and to stem the damage they might cause to his mental health.
So, what do we do with Calvin Ridley? We certainly can’t drop him; after all, Lane Johnson missed just three weeks when he stepped away. I think we have to hold onto him and treat him like every other injured player because he is injured right now. We just can’t see the injury. I’m not going to be crass and say things like “take advantage of a panicked manager” or anything like that. But, I am going to preach caution. We do not know the extent of this injury, so it’s time to just hang onto him, to see what happens.
Sorry to give a whole thousand-word article to just say “hang onto Calvin Ridley, he could be back soon.” As you read, there were more important things to talk about.
Good for Calvin Ridley, and I hope others suffering follow his lead.
[Header Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Atlanta_Falcons_(45674483812).jpg under CC BY SA 2.0]
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