The Falcons are coming off an ugly win over one of the worst teams in the league in the Jacksonville Jaguars, which brings them within one game of the final spot in the NFC playoffs. Atlanta welcomed back Cordarrelle Patterson after missing all of the Patriots game and half of the Cowboys game, but there might not be more reinforcements on their way.
The Falcons have been missing star wide receiver Calvin Ridley since the team announced just before the Week 8 matchup against the Panthers that he would not be available. Later, it was announced that he would be taking a leave of absence to focus on his mental well-being, explaining his decision in a statement posted to social media.
— CALVIN RIDLEY (@CalvinRidley1) October 31, 2021
The Falcons, as an organization, have been entirely supportive of Ridley in this challenging time. Specifically, their head coach, who has publically supported his wideout in every capacity possible. Arthur Smith was asked about the situation when appearing on The Rich Eisen Show a couple of weeks ago:
“With all our players, we care about every person we have in this building,” Smith said via Falcons Wire. “This football staff is a part of this team, from the equipment room, the video room, to the players, to the coaches, to everybody that’s part of this team. I think what you’re realizing now is, in football you can see physical injuries. As we realize in society, certainly some things have came to light, whether it was COVID or the things that have gone on with mental health. You look at the veterans coming out of 20 years of warfare. There’s a lot of invisible injuries and they’re serious and anybody that needs help with anything, whether it’s a visible injury or invisible injury, we’ll do everything we can to help them.”
“Like everybody, I don’t disclose people’s injuries. Players can speak, Calvin put out a statement. I’ll let Calvin speak for Calvin, just like I would for anyone on this team. If they want to talk about a knee injury, that’s their prerogative to talk about. It’s not going to come from me,” Smith said to Eisen.
“The way you look at it, big picture, there’s always things with every player and you can’t worry. I take it back to any injury anybody has, something comes up and there’s a life event. There’s a lot of guys on this roster, we have different guys that play week to week. We don’t force anything, we wouldn’t force anybody back from any kind of injury. So, we take it day by day, or week by week, and that’s how we view it. There’s no timetable on it, nor would I push anybody on that.”
The support for a player battling mental struggles is paramount in their recovery, but the Falcons badly need help at the position. Ridley may have had a difficult start to the year, but he’s the only receiver who could threaten defenses at this point. Russell Gage had a better game against the Jaguars, which is encouraging, but the Falcons need more consistency from the former LSU Tiger.
The Falcons and their fans probably shouldn’t expect Ridley back anytime soon. During a press conference on Monday, Arthur Smith was once again asked about his status.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith said there's no update on WR Calvin Ridley, who can come off the NFI list at any time. Ridley has been taking time away from football to focus on his mental well-being.
Smith also didn't want to speculate whether or not Ridley will return this year.
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) November 29, 2021
The Falcons could use Ridley’s services now more than ever in the final stretch run of the regular season. They’re on the cusp of making the playoffs, but more than likely, the team will finish December without #18 on the field in 2021.