Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo backed off Friday on comments about his release being prompted by outspokenness on same-sex marriage.
After Ayanbadejo suggested to Newsday on an interview that the Ravens might have tired of having him around because of unwanted attention resulting from his comments about a sensitive topic, he took a softer approach while speaking with "NFL AM."
"The Ravens have facilited the relationships I have with the community, he said. "If the Ravens wanted to cut me for my stance on marriage equality, they would have done it in 2009."
Told of Ayanbadejo's comments on Thursday, the Ravens had expressed surprise.
"We have always been respectful of Brendon's opinions and his right to express those," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens' senior vice president for public and community relations. "Our decision regarding his departure from the team has everything to do with football. Nothing else."
The Ravens also indicated that they would be open to re-signing Ayanbadejo in the future. Ayanbadejo is 36 and a 10-year veteran, though, and has contributed mostly on special teams last year.
He said he spoke with Ravens coach John Harbaugh, general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Biscotti after he was released. He also acknowledge that there were other reasons that Baltimore let him go.
"We have a great relationship. In no way would I say anything like that," Ayanbadejo said on "NFL AM." "What I did say, though, was that the NFL doesn't really want to touch topics that are bigger than football. And when organizations have players that touch topics that are better than football and your bark is louder than your bite, and your production is down, and you aren't doing everything that you used to do, then teams don't necessarily care so much to have those things go on."
Ayanbadejo had garnered attention Thursday night when he said at the Straight for Equality Gala in New York, "I make a lot of noise and garner a lot of attention for various things off the football field. When that starts happening, why do you have that player around?"
It's only a matter of time before NFL players publicly state they're gay, Ayanbadejo said. In fact, he indicated that several players are contemplating it.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo told The Sun. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out."