NEW ORLEANS -- The media throng awaiting San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver in the team hotel Thursday caught some teammates by surprise. Amazed looks crossed their faces as they arrived for the final full-team media session before Super Bowl XLVII.
The massive fallout from Culliver's anti-gay remarks earlier in the week threatens to distract him from his work in the game Sunday. The fallout has already forced coach Jim Harbaugh and others in the organization to redirect resources toward a response plan. As Harbaugh suggested Thursday, the fallout could affect Culliver's long-term standing on the team.
Granderson criticized Culliver for "hiding behind statements co-authored by other people" after the 49ers issued the following prepared statement from Culliver:
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."
The statement was obviously prepared by public-relations professionals. The 49ers weren't going to let Culliver issue his own statement. This was an initial attempt at damage control. Culliver will have to do much more of the work in the future to become credible.
Ratto suggests Culliver's offending remarks resonated through the highest levels of the 49ers' organization in a manner that threatens Culliver's standing with the team. He points to the embarrassment team owner Jed York must have felt.
"As someone who has been on the forefront of anti-gay bullying action in the NFL, [York] had to spend his Thursday grappling with L’affaire Culliver rather than basking in the reflected glory of his team," Ratto wrote.
Not quite two weeks ago, Culliver's interception off Matt Ryan in the NFC Championship Game helped the 49ers defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 28-24. Afterward, Culliver excitedly explained how the 49ers had adjusted to the Falcons' bunch formations after falling behind.
Culliver has played more than 75 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps in the playoffs. He's a big part of the 49ers' defensive plan against Baltimore and a bigger question mark moving forward.