The four Michigan State players reinstated for spring practice offered a public apology Tuesday, donning suits and ties as they addressed reporters.
Wide receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, offensive lineman J'Michael Deane and cornerback Chris L. Rucker expressed remorse for their involvement in the residence hall assault that resulted in their suspension from the team in December. All four men recently were sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault.
"I should apologize to all of Spartan Nation because we definitely gave a black eye to the program," Deane said at Tuesday's news conference.
Perhaps the more important mea culpa took place behind closed doors, as the players apologized to their teammates.
"The situation put bad light on them," wide receiver Keith Nichol told me Thursday. "They took it upon themselves to apologize to us. They didn't have to do that because we understood what happened. ... It's unfortunate. Everybody deserves a second chance, and they're certainly guys that do."
The reinstated players are making the most of their new opportunity. Nichol, who made the shift to wide receiver this winter and will spend most of his time there, had a chance to work alongside Dell and Cunningham on Tuesday for Michigan State's first practice of the spring.
Despite their absence from team activities, the two wideouts looked Sharp to Nichol.
"I don't feel like they missed a beat," he said. "When you consider at the Division I level, you're doing football once or twice a day on your own. And they were banned from it for four months, so that's hard, that's a long time. But they came back with a lot of encouragement from our teammates. They were excited, and they're great football players.
"We've put our arms around them. They've been through a lot, and we understand that, so we're trying to move forward."