For the first time in his career, Falcons' Calvin Ridley can be called captain

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Calvin Ridley has been one of the best players on the field his entire career, from high school to college to his last three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Yet through all that, there was something he had never been until Wednesday afternoon.

A captain.

“Yeah, it’s pretty big. First time in my life I’m a captain on a team,” Ridley said Wednesday during a call promoting Pepsi's Made for Football Watching campaign. “It shows that I’m doing something right. My teammates respect me enough to vote me as a leader on the team and yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about it.

“It’s something different. I handle things a little different, but it’s a pretty big accomplishment for me.”

Ridley said he hasn’t always been vocal before -- potentially why he was never named a captain at Alabama -- but that he’s starting to step into a different role in his life to be more of a leader. Now he’ll be one of five, along with quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Jake Matthews, linebacker Deion Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. A sixth game captain will rotate each week.

It’s a role he’d been pushing toward with his play on the field and one that made even more sense after Atlanta traded Julio Jones to Tennessee in June. With Jones gone, Ridley became the clear No. 1 pass-catcher in Atlanta’s offense. He also knew younger receivers might start coming to him for advice, something he always has been willing to discuss before but a part he has embraced more fully the last few months.

Ridley said he fits in well in new coach Arthur Smith’s offense “like I always did, every season.” He said it comes down to him making plays. He believes in his connection with longtime Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan – the duo connected for 90 receptions, 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns last year.

And now fully healthy coming off foot surgery in the offseason, it’s possible he could be the NFL’s receiving yardage leader this year. That, though, is something he’s not thinking about.

“At this point, where I’m at, being my fourth season with Atlanta, my goal is to help the team to get back to winning games, get back on track,” Ridley said. “I know if I’m helping the team do that, I’m doing something right and having something to do with it.

“My stats, they are going to come, that’s with football. But getting the win, that’s more important to me.”