On the morning of the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 8 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Calvin Ridley was ruled out for the game and would later announce he’d be taking an indefinite absence to focus on his mental well-being. The team has since placed Ridley on the non-football injury list. keeping him out at least three games.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was asked about the situation during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, emphasizing that team wants players to feel cared for beyond just their physical injuries.
“With all our players, we care about every person we have in this building,” said Smith. “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.”
There has been a shift in the NFL in recent years to put a bigger emphasis on the mental health of the players. Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst has been a huge ambassador for mental illness and expressing to people that it’s okay to not be okay. Hurst has even created the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation to help support those who suffer in silence.
Eisen then asked Smith what the plan was for Ridley and when we could expect the star receiver to return to the field, but Smith wouldn’t give any kind of timeline. The Falcons head coach just said they would take a week-by-week approach to allow Ridley to get as much help as possible.
“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,” emphasized Smith 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.”