“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing,” Ryan said on KNBR, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I mean, you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision, forget about it, he’s out of the gate.”
Talking to reporters Thursday at his team’s training facility, the 49ers’ Richard Sherman said, “I know Tim personally, and I listened to the dialogue and saw it written, and honestly I wasn’t as outraged as everybody else.”
“I understand how it could be taken under a certain context and be offensive to some,” the 31-year-old defensive back added, “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,” Sherman said of Jackson, “and you’re like, ‘Okay, does he have the ball’ on that play, and [Baltimore running back Mark] Ingram’s running it. So it was technically a valid point, but you can always phrase things better — not say, ‘His black skin,' you know — but I’ve had a relationship with him since I got here [in 2018], and he’s never been anything but a great guy, a professional and a guy who takes his job seriously.
“So it’s unfortunate that that’s what it came to, but the team did what they had to do.”
In a statement Wednesday, the 49ers said they were “disappointed in Tim Ryan’s comments earlier this week.” He will sit out Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints and be replaced by Dennis Brown, a former San Francisco defensive lineman who has been helping KNBR cover the team.
“We hold Tim to a high standard as a representative of our organization and he must be more thoughtful with his words,” the 49ers said. “Tim has expressed remorse in a public statement and has also done so with us privately. We know Tim as a man of high integrity and are confident he will grow and learn from this experience.”
“I regret my choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game,” Ryan said in a statement Wednesday. “Lamar Jackson is an MVP-caliber player and I respect him greatly.
“I want to sincerely apologize to him and anyone else I offended.”
The 49ers also said they reached out to the Ravens to “extend our apologies and assure them the matter is not being taken lightly.”
The Ravens had no comment on Ryan’s suspension, a team spokesman told The Post Wednesday via email, apart from confirming that the 49ers “reached out to us earlier today and explained what happened.”
San Francisco defensive end Dee Ford said Thursday that he and Ryan had an encounter earlier in the day in which, before the suspended analyst could say anything, Ford told him, “I got your back.”
“The words kind of got taken out of context,” Ford said. “Of course, I think he knows now he could have used better judgment with his words, but we’ve got his back. I knew what he was trying to say. This era we live in, it’s just what it is.”
Ford appeared to deny that Ryan harbored any racist sentiments, telling reporters that “there’s not one type of bone — you know what bone I’m talking about — in his body, so we put that to bed really fast.” He added of the analyst, “He’ll bounce back.”
“I’ve known Tim Ryan for a few years and have come to respect him. I don’t think his comment was malicious,” former 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams said Thursday on Twitter. “However, I know Tim has enough football IQ to not have to mention skin color.
“Anytime you mention skin color, especially in this manner, there will be an uproar.”
Ryan, 52, has been a color analyst on 49ers radio broadcasts since 2014, following an 11-year stint with Fox Sports. A San Jose native who was a third-round pick in the 1990 draft, he played with the Bears for four seasons and was a teammate of Jim Harbaugh, the brother of Ravens Coach John Harbaugh.
News of Ryan’s suspension elicited a scornful response on Twitter from Mark Ingram, who made ripples last month for his playfully emphatic claim that Jackson deserves to win the NFL’s MVP award this season.
Cameron Jordan, a defensive end for the New Orleans Saints, chimed in by tweeting at Ingram, “Confirms no matter how well you’re doing and how much positivity you’re spreading some won’t want you to succeed.”
Jackson enjoyed a decorated career as a quarterback for the University of Louisville, including winning the 2016 Heisman Trophy. However, suggestions from some NFL scouts and personnel executives before the 2018 draft that he would be best off switching to wide receiver or running back, and that he lacked sufficient passing skills to succeed in the pros, sparked accusations that he was being viewed with racial bias.
While four quarterbacks, all white, went in the first 10 picks of that draft, Jackson lasted until the 32nd and final pick of the first round, at which point the Ravens traded up to select him. After throwing for 324 yards and five touchdowns in a Week 1 rout of the Miami Dolphins, Jackson showed he hadn’t forgotten the slights he’d received, telling reporters, “Not bad for a running back."
Bill Polian, a six-time NFL executive of the year and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was among those who said Jackson should change positions. In November, Polian issued a mea culpa, telling USA Today, “I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and [former Ravens general manager] Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was."
In an offense tailored by Harbaugh to his quarterback’s many talents, Jackson has led the 10-2 Ravens to the top spot in the AFC. His 977 rushing yards are ninth in the NFL for players at any position, and he is just 63 short of breaking Michael Vick’s single-season league record for quarterbacks.
Jackson is also excelling with his arm, ranking first in the NFL in passing touchdown percentage (7.8) and QBR (80.70), second in passing touchdowns (25) and fourth in passer rating (109.6).
Sherman said Thursday that as with Jackson in the Ravens’ attack or “in any zone-read scheme,” the “mesh point” that Ryan mentioned is “always a tough point of contention” for defenses. He added, “If you add a dark jersey to it, it’s going to make it even harder.”
“That’s why it wasn’t that offensive, because what he was saying is a great point,” Sherman said of Ryan. “Obviously, you can always phrase it better.
“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.”