Brendon Ayanbadejo, a highly visible defender of gay rights and same-sex marriage, told the Baltimore Sun that four current NFL players are considering coming out as gay.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo told the newspaper. "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's comments come after he refuted a report by Newsday on Thursday in which he said he thought one of the reasons he was cut by the Baltimore Ravens was his outspoken advocacy of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
Ayanbadejo, who tweeted that he was misquoted in the Newsday story, also emphasized to the Sun that he thinks the Ravens made a football move in letting him go.
The Ravens issued a statement Thursday night denying that Ayanbadejo's advocacy of gay rights and same-sex marriage had anything to do with his release.
"We're surprised that he would indicate this. We have always been respectful of Brendon's opinions and his right to express those," Ravens senior vice president for public and community relations Kevin Byrne said. "Our decision regarding his departure from the team has everything to do with football. Nothing else."
A 10-year veteran, the 36-year-old Ayanbadejo played primarily on special teams with the Super Bowl champion Ravens. He had a career-high 30 tackles from scrimmage last season, a sack and 14 stops on special teams.
Ayanbadejo made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Ravens after also making it twice while with the Chicago Bears.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.