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Desmond Ridder: I was playing not to screw up, I want to play free

Desmond Ridder finds himself in a very different place than he was a year ago.

Ridder was the No. 1 quarterback in Atlanta at this time last year and the Falcons passed on every opportunity to challenge that heading into the season. The feeling that Ridder was the quarterback of the future ended halfway through the season as Ridder got benched for Taylor Heinicke and a return to the lineup later in the year didn't result in better play as Ridder ended the year with 19 turnovers for a 7-10 Falcons team.

A trade last month sent Ridder to Arizona and he is vying with Clayton Tune to be the backup to Kyler Murray for the Cardinals. He said he hopes to "be able to go out there and be better" for what he experienced last season and he believes that process starts with his mental approach to the game.

"One thing I wanna improve is just going out there playing free," Ridder said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. "A lot of the times I felt like I was playing not to mess it up, not to screw it up. And so just to be able to go out there, play free, play loose, play within the system. And then there were a lot of good things that I did on film and then there were some bad things. It just happened to be that those bad things outweighed the good. There was a lot of the games where it was 90 percent good and 10 percent bad, and in those 10 percent, that just happened to be the determining factor of the game."

While 90 percent good and 10 percent bad might seem like an acceptable ratio, most NFL games are too close for teams to survive with that kind of quarterback play. If Ridder does get another chance as a starter, the percentage of bad plays have to go way down for him to have a long-term future in that role.