JACKSONVILLE – Calvin Ridley's taking it slowly. Kinda, sorta.
It may be better to say the Jaguars' wide receiver is doing his version of "taking it slowly" during 2023 Organized Team Activities at TIAA Bank Field. Because for Ridley, taking it slowly is difficult. Very difficult.
"I only really know one speed," he said Tuesday.
Agreed Head Coach Doug Pederson, "He's the type of guy you have to pump the brakes with."
The good news for the Jaguars is that Ridley, acquired in a trade last November with the Atlanta Falcons, has looked very good during OTAs. While Ridley said he has felt some rust from not playing or practicing since October 2021, Pederson said he has seen no signs of that from the sixth-year veteran during the early weeks of non-padded offseason work.
"He's done an outstanding job for us," Pederson said. "He's picking up the offense. The times that he's working with [Jaguars quarterback] Trevor [Lawrence], they're on the same page, they're connecting."
That's one task for the Jaguars with Ridley this offseason – to get him acclimated to an offense that ranked 10th in the NFL in scoring and total offense last season. The other task is to do so while working Ridley back into playing shape at a pace that will enable him to be fully ready for 2023 Training Camp in late July.
Ridley, who caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020 – his last full season – not only missed the 2022 season serving an NFL suspension for gambling, but he also missed the last 11 games of 2021 for personal reasons. He also played much of his first three seasons through a foot injury.
"He wants to go so much and so fast and so hard out there at practice that we just have to pump the brakes and just tell him, 'Hey, now's not the time,''' Pederson said. "He hasn't played in a while, plus the injury, so we're just trying to be careful with him.
"He hasn't played a ton of football and we just want to make sure he's ready to go for camp."
Ridley, originally the No. 26 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft from the University of Alabama, said he understands the approach and that he's "getting my body ready for the long ride."
"I have to gradually get my body back to football and be peaking going into the season – not out here [in OTAs]," he said. "I'm kind of picking it up a little bit, just trying to get myself the reps I could get. But they just want me to slowly build towards the season.
"Of course, I expect I would be a little rusty because you can't really get ready for this. Just running every day is what really causes you get sore. I just have to make sure I build and not be sore in the season."
NOTABLE: Reactions to the new NFL Kickoff Rule
- Pederson and special teams coordinator Heath Farwell said it remains unclear how new NFL kickoff rules will affect strategy moving forward. The league implemented a rule that any fair catch on a kickoff inside the 25-yard line will result in the receiving team beginning the ensuing possession on its 25-yard line. A fair catch in the field of play previously resulted in the receiving team beginning the ensuing possession at the spot of the catch. "It's going to be interesting to see how this works out," Farwell said of the rule, which – like many changes to kickoffs and onside kicks – was made in the interest of player safety.
- "As special teams coaches got together, it wasn't exactly what we were looking for, but as the game evolves, we have to evolve right there with it." Farwell said he and special teams assistant Luke Thompson will study how college teams approach kickoffs under similar rules.
- Pederson said he doesn't expect a significant change league-wide, particularly for "Teams that have dynamic returners like we do [in wide receiver Jamal Agnew]. If you can do that with a dynamic guy, I don't think it'll change too much around the league."
- Said Farwell, "It's going to be all new to us. We have Jamal. We're going to want to return. We're going to try to return as much as we can. Are we going to fair catch? At times, potentially, but if you have a returner like we do, you still want that. It's a big part of the game. It's a big part of momentum. It was a huge part of what we did."