Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley says rust gone after year-long ban

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It has only been two days, but Jaguars receiver Calvin Ridley said the bit of rust he felt in the spring following his return to football after a yearlong suspension is gone.

He feels like he's back to normal -- good news for the Jaguars' offense but bad news for the league's cornerbacks and defensive coordinators.

"I'm him," Ridley said after Thursday's training camp practice. "I'm Calvin Ridley. Yes, sir. ... Still getting better, but, nah man, I haven't lost a step.

"You can ask anyone that's around here."

His quarterback certainly agrees. Trevor Lawrence was still at Clemson in 2020 when Ridley caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns with Atlanta, so he wasn't around Ridley at his best, but he is impressed with what he has seen since Ridley was reinstated from his gambling suspension on March 6.

"Just watching him [and] the way he runs, there are not many guys like that, especially in and out of his breaks," Lawrence said. "He's just really crafty, has great ball skills, and you haven't even seen it yet because we're not in pads and we're not full contact, but I think after the catch he's really good too.

"In spring we were still kind of working him in so we didn't get a ton of reps. So now that we're at camp, we're full go. I'm excited just to continue to build on that."

Ridley said in the spring he still considers himself a 1,400-yard receiver. He explained that doesn't mean he will have that many yards in 2023, but that he will again be one of the best receivers in the NFL. Which would certainly be impressive considering it will be 23 months between games for the player selected 26th overall in the 2018 draft.

Ridley hasn't played in an NFL game since Oct. 24, 2021, when he was with the Falcons. In March 2022, he was suspended for the entire 2022 season after an investigation found that he bet on NFL games over a five-day stretch in November 2021.

However, Ridley is hoping his nearly two-year layoff will make defenses forget about him and instead concentrate on stopping the Jaguars' other playmakers, such as receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram, and running back Travis Etienne Jr. He's not above doing a little sandbagging to make that happen: limp around during pregame warmups, run the wrong routes...

"Don't watch me," he joked. "Don't worry about me. I haven't played in two years. Just worry about them.

"... Maybe drop some passes or just look real bad and maybe they'll give me some room. But of course I want them to forget me. I want them to forget for sure."

Not going to happen. Not to him.