San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman says suspended radio color analyst Tim Ryan has "never been anything but a great guy" after the former NFL defensive lineman apologized to the team Thursday for his comments about Lamar Jackson.
Sherman understands why some took offense to Ryan suggesting the Baltimore Ravens quarterback's "dark skin" helps with faking handoffs. However, he insists that argument was legitimate, albeit poorly worded.
"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," Sherman said, according to ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "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) Ingram is 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."
Jackson ran for 101 yards and one touchdown in the Ravens' 20-17 win over the 49ers last week. It was the latest dominant performance on the ground for the MVP favorite.
Sherman emphasized that trying to recognize who had the football when Baltimore was running the zone-read and read-option was "100 percent" an issue for San Francisco's defense.
"That's why it wasn't that offensive because what he was saying was a great point," said Sherman. "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. ... 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."
The 49ers suspended Ryan one game for the remark, and the team reached out to the Ravens to apologize.
In a statement Wednesday, the broadcaster also apologized to Jackson, saying he regretted his "choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game."