From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made to a comedian during Super Bowl media day, saying "that's not what I feel in my heart.""I'm sorry if I offended anyone. They were very ugly comments," Culliver said during an hour-long media session. "Hopefully I learn and grow from this experience and this situation."He said he would welcome a gay teammate to the 49ers, a reversal of his remarks to Artie Lange two days earlier during an interview at the Superdome."I treat everyone equal," Culliver said. "That's not how I feel."He added that he realized his comments were especially offensive to many people in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which is home to a large gay community."I love San Francisco," Culliver said.During the interview with Lange, Culliver responded to questions by saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn't have any gay players, and if they did those players should leave.San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh met privately with Culliver to discuss the remarks."I reject what he said," Harbaugh said. "That's not something that reflects the way the organization feels, the way the rest of the players feel."The coach would not discuss if Culliver would face discipline from the team, such as a fine or loss of playing time."He pledged to grow from it," Harbaugh said.The interview began with Lange asking Culliver about his sexual plans with women during Super Bowl week. Lange followed up with a question about whether Culliver would consider pursuing a gay man."I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that," Culliver said during the one-minute taped interview. "Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."Lange asked Culliver to reiterate his thoughts, to which the player said, "It's true." He added he wouldn't welcome a gay teammate -- no matter how talented."Nah. Can't be ... in the locker room, nah," he said. "You've gotta come out 10 years later after that."The 24-year-old Culliver, a third-round draft pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games for the NFC champion Niners (13-4-1).He had his first career postseason interception in San Francisco's 28-24 win at Atlanta for the NFC title, which sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They will face the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.The 49ers participate in the NFL's "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign. Three organizations working for LGBT inclusion in sports -- Athlete Ally, You Can Play, and GLAAD -- reacted to Culliver's remarks and later acknowledged his apology."Chris Culliver's comments were disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him," said Athlete Ally Executive Director Hudson Taylor. "His words underscore the importance of the athlete ally movement and the key role that professional athletes play in shaping an athletic climate that affirms and includes gay and lesbian players."Calling Lange's questions "real disrespectful," Culliver said he realized he was speaking to a comedian and not a journalist."That was pretty much in a joking manner," the player said. "It's nothing about how I feel."Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made headlines this season with his vocal support of a gay-marriage initiative in Maryland, said Culliver's comments to Lange were reflective of how many players in the NFL feel, even if they don't express it publicly. He hopes the 49ers cornerback will learn from this experience and become a positive role model in the quest for equality."You can't fight hate with hate," Ayanbadejo said. "You've got to fight hate with love."Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said Culliver should be allowed to express his views, even if some people found them offensive."The guy's entitled to his own opinion," said Pollard, who has acknowledged that he disagrees with Ayanbadejo's stand on gay marriage. "I'm not going to sit here and knock him. I'm not going to sit here and judge him. It's freedom of speech. If you don't like it, don't listen to it."
For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.
One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.
So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season.
In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare.
Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI..
Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career.
The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game.
Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins:
Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning
Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33
Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17
Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack.
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway
Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio
Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24
Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors.
Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe
Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27
Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21
Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career.
Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien
Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28
Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24
Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost
Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process.
Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that.
Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM.
Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England.
Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel.
It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.