JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson is trying to get receiver Calvin Ridley to slowly work his way back following an 18-month absence.
Ridley has other thoughts.
The former Atlanta Falcons standout is sneaking in extra repetitions during Jacksonville's organized team activities, a clear sign how eager he is to "get my body back to football" after missing most of the past two seasons.
"I only really know one speed," Ridley said.
The Jaguars would prefer Ridley save full throttle for training camp, maybe even the preseason. But convincing the 28-year-old Ridley of that seems to be a tough task considering how long he was sidelined.
"I'm picking (the tempo) up a little bit, just trying to get myself those reps," he said. "But they just want me to slowly build toward the season.
"I've got to gradually get my body back to football and be peaking into the season, not out here. Just got to get my body ready for the long ride."
Ridley's wait has been a lengthy one.
He last played an NFL game in October 2021, first stepping away to focus on his mental health and then serving a yearlong suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy.
He was suspended after the league determined he bet on NFL games while away from the Falcons to deal with a home invasion he detailed in an article for The Players Tribune.The league reinstated Ridley in March, clearing the way for him to join his new team in Jacksonville. The Jaguars gave up a fifth-round draft pick in 2022 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2024 to get Ridley from Atlanta at the trade deadline in November.
Ridley has spent the past three months getting to know new teammates, new coaches, new surroundings and a new playbook. He worked out with quarterback Trevor Lawrence and fellow wideouts several times before the offseason program even began.
Those working closely alongside Ridley rave about his work ethic, which was evident on one play last week. Ridley failed to get in the right position on one route, which caused him to drop a pass from Lawrence. Ridley immediately signaled for a do-over and then followed with a flawlessly executed play.
"I've watched him the last few years and was super excited about that aspect of him joining our team," Lawrence said Monday. "But just to get to know him as a person and just to see his work ethic and how hungry he is to get back into play and how happy he is to be a part of our team, I think that's been the coolest part of having him here."
Ridley caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns despite dealing with a broken left foot in 2020. He had 31 receptions for 281 yards and two scores before sitting out the final two months of the 2021 season.
He's essentially starting over in Jacksonville, hoping to earn a new contract and stay close to his hometown of Fort Lauderdale. He insists 1,400 yards receiving is an attainable goal despite sharing the spotlight with Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and Zay Jones.
Pederson, though, just wants to get Ridley to September in one piece. And he believes the best way to do that is to slow him down now and through the rest of the summer.
"It's exciting to see what he can do and what he can bring," Pederson said. "But look, some of the things that I'm doing with the team drills is I'm trying to eliminate collisions. We're slowing the pace down so he can actually get in there (and learn).
"If you notice he's not a full speed. He's not doing anything a 100%. It's a way to get him in there under a controlled tempo. But it's good to see him get in there as he continues to learn and process the information, and he's doing good."