Free agent linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is walking back some of the controversial statements he made following his release from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this week.
Ayanbadejo told Newsday that his release was, in part, prompted by his vocal support for marriage equality.
"My bark is louder than my bite," Ayanbadejo said after being honored at Thursday's Straight for Equality Gala in New York City. "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?
"I don't necessarily think that teams want this type of attention."
Ayanbadejo made headlines last September when a Maryland State Senator wrote a letter to the Ravens asking them to stifle the linebacker's vocal support of gay marriage. The state of Maryland had a referendum on marriage equality on the ballot in November, which passed.
Ayanbadejo also told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun on Friday morning that several current gay NFL players are considering coming out of the closet at one time. That way they could share whatever attention or burden that would come with being the first active NFL players to do so.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "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.
"Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."
Ayanbadejo also said in the interview that his release had more to do with the size of his paycheck and his declining athletic skills than his outspoken nature.
"The Ravens have been backing me, they knew my stance for years and have been facilitating me and organizing me with LGBT and set me up with Equality Maryland. They helped me," said Ayanbadejo. "If they didn't like what I was doing, they would have cut me a long time ago. I'm a special-teams player and you can find somebody to do what I did for less than half that value. They can find someone to do the same job.
"I was the most productive player on special teams and the only linebacker who played in every single game. I'm not saying I didn't bring any value. What I was saying about my bark is louder than my bite is I was talking more that I was productive and it makes you expendable."
The Ravens signed Ayanbadejo to a three-year, $3.22 million contract last March. Ayanbadejo played in nearly 80 percent of the Ravens' special teams last season and had a team-high 14 special teams tackles with one fumble recovery. In 170 (14.9 percent) of the team's defensive snaps, Ayanbadejo had 30 tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss and broke up one pass.
Ayanbadejo was scheduled to earn $940,000 in base salary in 2013 and his release save the Ravens $806,666 in cap space. The team has left open the possibility of a return.
"When I got cut, Ozzie called me, John Harbaugh called me and we spoke for 40 minutes," Ayanbadejo told the Baltimore Sun. "Steve Bisciotti called me. Kevin Byrne reached out to me. [Defensive coordinator] Dean Pees and [linebackers coach] Wink Martindale reached out to me. I'm a Raven for life. I'm definitely upset with the journalist. The Ravens treated me with a lot of respect. I always had a great relationship with Dick Cass. I always praised the way they do things and their principles. They have happy employees, which equates to a successful company.
"They do things the right way. I'm totally cool with them. I'm a Raven for life. Being a Raven has been the greatest experience professionally for me. I was a Raven and got to be in a state where they voted for marriage equality, which had always been defeated in the past. It was meant to be. We won the Super Bowl. It was such an amazing experience and roller-coaster ride. How could I ever be upset?"
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- Brendon Ayanbadejo
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