Radio analyst Tim Ryan apologizes to 49ers players for Lamar Jackson comments

BRADENTON, Fla. -- After the San Francisco 49ers suspended radio color analyst Tim Ryan for a game for saying Ravens quarterbackLamar Jackson's dark skin helps him disguise a dark football when running fake handoffs in Baltimore's zone-read-heavy offense, he apologized to players and members of the organization at the team's hotel here in Bradenton.

Those apologies were apparently well-received by Niners players who spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon for the first time since Ryan's comments went public.

"I know Tim personally and I have listened to the dialogue and saw it written and honestly I wasn't as outraged as everybody else," 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said. "I understand how it can be taken under a certain context and be offensive to some, but if you're saying 'Hey, this is a brown ball, they're wearing dark colors and he has a brown arm, honestly sometimes we were having trouble seeing it on film. He's making a play fake and sometimes he's swinging his arm really fast and you're like 'OK, does he have the ball on that play?' And then you look up and (Mark) Ingramis running it. So, it was technically a valid point, but you can always phrase things better. You can always phrase things and not say his black skin."

"I guess he went to extreme measures to justify why our ball-handling is great," Ingram said Friday. "He went to extreme measures that really didn't make sense."

Sherman said he has had a relationship with Ryan since he signed with the Niners in 2018 and noted that Ryan has "never been anything but a great guy and a professional and a guy who takes his job seriously."

Asked if it was difficult to find the ball when the Ravens ran zone-read plays against the 49ers, Sherman said it was. Jackson rushed 16 times for 101 yards and a touchdown with a career-high 70 of those rushing yards coming via zone-read plays.

"It 100 percent is an issue," Sherman said. "That's why it wasn't that offensive because what he was saying was a great point. It's been that way in any zone-read scheme, the mesh point is always a tough point of contention so if you add a dark jersey to it, it's gonna make it even harder. Obviously, you can always phrase it better, but I think it's one of those things where he could have used better words but it may have been made bigger than what it really was."

Ryan made the comments in a phone interview Monday morning while appearing on the "Murph and Mac" show on KNBR radio in San Francisco. Ryan called in to the show from the team's hotel in Bradenton, where the Niners are spending this week preparing for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

After Ryan's comments became known to those who didn't listen to the interview on the radio, the Niners moved swiftly to suspend him from his duties for this week's game. The team released a statement noting the suspension and apologizing to the Ravens for the comments, with an assurance that Ryan's comments wouldn't be taken lightly.

Ryan also issued a statement apologizing for what he said as he also personally apologized to players, coaches and members of the organization in person.

"He walked up to me earlier and before he even said anything, I told him 'I got your back,'" defensive end Dee Ford said. "I already knew the story. The words kind of got taken out of context. Of course, I think he knows now that he could have used a better judgment with his words, but we've got his back. I knew what he was trying to say. This era we live in, that's just what it is. But I know him personally. I speak to him a lot. He loves to watch the D-line and there's not one type of bone -- you know what type of bone I'm talking about -- in his body. I've got his back. So, put that to bed really fast."

Ryan is a former Chicago Bears defensive lineman who appeared in 58 games over four seasons for that team. After 12 seasons as a color analyst for FOX television, he moved to the Niners' radio booth in 2014.

Dennis Brown, a former Niners defensive lineman, will replace Ryan in the booth on Sunday. KNBR is the Niners' radio partner and broadcasts all of the team's games.

As part of his analyst role, Ryan is often around the team, watching practice and interacting with players and coaches.

"With Tim, I have always as a human being tried to judge people on how I interact with them and I love the man," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. "He's a very genuine human being and I know he knows he made a mistake. And he's just trying to move this on as quickly as possible."

Related Video
Stephen A.: Tim Ryan shouldn't lose his job over racial comments
Stephen A.: Tim Ryan shouldn't lose his job over racial comments
Stephen A. Smith acknowledges the ignorance of radio analyst Tim Ryan in regard to Lamar Jackson's skin color, but does not believe it should cost Ryan his job.
Copyright © 2020 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.