FRISCO, Texas — When Dan Quinn heard, he reached out.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator was Calvin Ridley’s Atlanta Falcons head coach during Ridley’s first two-and-a-half pro seasons. Player and coach spent ample time together. So when Quinn heard Ridley was battling mental health challenges, he wanted to help.
“To make sure, on my end, if there’s anything I can do,” Quinn said Monday. “I love Calvin.”
And Quinn supports his former receiver’s decision to take time away football to work through his mental well-being. In fact, Quinn says he is proud.
“Oftentimes, there are issues that come up that need some extra time and space,” Quinn said. “I’m proud for Calvin that this is the time to, ‘Hey, I’ve got to make some adjustments and find some help to do that.’ I’m certainly proud of him for doing that.”
The Falcons drafted Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft during Quinn’s tenure as head coach. Ridley has amassed 3,342 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns in 49 career games since. This season, with longtime Falcons receiver Julio Jones traded to Tennessee, Ridley’s opportunity to further star seemed ripe.
Coming off a 1,374-yard, nine-touchdown season, Ridley has caught 31 passes for 281 yards and two scores in five games.
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But he missed the Falcons’ Week 5 game against the Jets, citing a personal matter. And Sunday, one week after facing the Vikings, the 26 year old was ruled inactive vs. the Carolina Panthers. This time, Ridley posted a statement on social media explaining what he called a “very challenging” few weeks.
“As much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing,” Ridley wrote. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future.”
Ridley is not the first NFL player to cite mental health during an absence this season. Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson also missed time as he battled depression and anxiety.
Quinn praised the vulnerability and honesty players are showing speaking about their mental health challenges. He cited Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who has battled depression and lost his brother to suicide; and Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst, a suicide survivor and advocate for suicide prevention.
“Mental health issues, it’s hard to read,” Quinn said. “You can see when someone sprains their ankle, but you can’t tell oftentimes when someone’s hurting on the inside. So having the courage to speak up and do that for guys like Dak and others who have done that around the league, or tight end Hayden Hurst, and now Cal, I certainly admire them. Because by doing that, it may just point out the one person who needs that kind of help.
“A younger person looking up to (him) like, ‘Hey, if it’s OK for Calvin to speak out and get help, I’m going to go and talk to somebody, too.’”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Calvin Ridley gets support from former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn
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