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49ers' Culliver apologizes for anti-gay remarks

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49ers' Culliver apologizes for anti-gay remarks

NEW ORLEANS (AP) San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made to a comedian during Super Bowl media day, saying ``that's not what I feel in my heart.''

``I'm sorry if I offended anyone. They were very ugly comments,'' Culliver said during an hour-long media session. ``Hopefully I learn and grow from this experience and this situation.''

He said he would welcome a gay teammate to the 49ers, a reversal of his remarks to Artie Lange two days earlier during an interview at the Superdome.

``I treat everyone equal,'' Culliver said. ``That's not how I feel.''

He added that he realized his comments were especially offensive to many people in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which is home to a large gay community.

``I love San Francisco,'' Culliver said.

During the interview with Lange, Culliver responded to questions by saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn't have any gay players, and if they did those players should leave.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh met privately with Culliver to discuss the remarks.

``I reject what he said,'' Harbaugh said. ``That's not something that reflects the way the organization feels, the way the rest of the players feel.''

The coach would not discuss if Culliver would face discipline from the team, such as a fine or loss of playing time.

``He pledged to grow from it,'' Harbaugh said.

The interview began with Lange asking Culliver about his sexual plans with women during Super Bowl week. Lange followed up with a question about whether Culliver would consider pursuing a gay man.

``I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that,'' Culliver said during the one-minute taped interview. ``Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff.''

Lange asked Culliver to reiterate his thoughts, to which the player said, ``It's true.'' He added he wouldn't welcome a gay teammate - no matter how talented.

``Nah. Can't be ... in the locker room, nah,'' he said. ``You've gotta come out 10 years later after that.''

The 24-year-old Culliver, a third-round draft pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games for the NFC champion Niners (13-4-1).

He had his first career postseason interception in San Francisco's 28-24 win at Atlanta for the NFC title, which sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They will face the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The 49ers participate in the NFL's ``It Gets Better'' anti-bullying campaign. Three organizations working for LGBT inclusion in sports - Athlete Ally, You Can Play, and GLAAD - reacted to Culliver's remarks and later acknowledged his apology.

``Chris Culliver's comments were disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him,'' said Athlete Ally Executive Director Hudson Taylor. ``His words underscore the importance of the athlete ally movement and the key role that professional athletes play in shaping an athletic climate that affirms and includes gay and lesbian players.''

Calling Lange's questions ``real disrespectful,'' Culliver said he realized he was speaking to a comedian and not a journalist.

``That was pretty much in a joking manner,'' the player said. ``It's nothing about how I feel.''

Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made headlines this season with his vocal support of a gay-marriage initiative in Maryland, said Culliver's comments to Lange were reflective of how many players in the NFL feel, even if they don't express it publicly. He hopes the 49ers cornerback will learn from this experience and become a positive role model in the quest for equality.

``You can't fight hate with hate,'' Ayanbadejo said. ``You've got to fight hate with love.''

Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said Culliver should be allowed to express his views, even if some people found them offensive.

``The guy's entitled to his own opinion,'' said Pollard, who has acknowledged that he disagrees with Ayanbadejo's stand on gay marriage. ``I'm not going to sit here and knock him. I'm not going to sit here and judge him. It's freedom of speech. If you don't like it, don't listen to it.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

Twenty-four-year-old Kaare Vedvik didn't watch his first football game until seven years ago, and now he's fighting for a spot on the Ravens' special teams roster.

Raised in Norway, Vedvik got his first glance at the game when the Super Bowl was being broadcast on Norwegian television for the first time. 

"It seemed like a really, really interesting sport," Vedvik said via The Baltimore Sun. "It was a sport I was never able to try growing up. I loved any sport that was fun, and football seemed really, really fun."

Fun enough to get the competitive soccer player to be an exchange student in the United States during his junior year of high school to test out the game of football. Vedvik returned to Norway for his senior year but impressed college recruiters enough at a Kohl's Kicking Camp in Texas that he was eventually recruited to play at Marshall University in West Virginia.

Staying in Norway would have meant giving up on sports entirely as school becomes more difficult and sports are no longer offered. Vedvik wasn't ready for that.

While at Marshall, Vedvik played in 38 games in four years as both a punter and kicker. He punted 59 times for 2,597 yards — averaging 44 yards — with 26 of them inside the 20-yard line. Vedvik once punted a 92-yarder, making it the seventh-longest punt in FBS history and the longest in 45 years. He ranked in the Top 10 for fewest punt return yards and averaged 63.6 yards-per-kickoff. 

After a private workout with Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg, Vedvik became one of 14 Ravens undrafted free agents and has impressed thus far hitting 70 and 67-yard field goals in training camp practices. And in Thursday's preseason game vs. the Rams, Vedvik hit a 56-yard field goal.

"Learning how to kick field goals, the biggest thing for me was to stop swiping across and trying to kick a straighter ball," Vedcik said. "That’s the biggest difference: In soccer, you’re trying to curve balls around a defender."

While Vedvik's chances of dethroning the most accurate kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker and 12-year veteran punter Sam Koch are slim, he could very well make an impact elsewhere. 

“The guys who are able to do that, they’re just good athletes in general, and Kaare is a good athlete,” Tucker said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Norwegian. “He hasn’t played a lot of football. He has plenty of ability.”

“When he came in, he’s got such a strong leg," Koch added. "You’ve got to have a strong leg in order to get looked at. He’s got a lot of talent. It’s one of those things — bringing him in, honing his skills and seeing what he can do from here.”

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What we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' 33-7 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams

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What we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' 33-7 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams

The Ravens returned to M&T Bank Stadium for their second game on the 2018 NFL preseason schedule and gave us a lot of reasons to be excited.

Joe Flacco and his new core of receivers only needed one drive to show off, Lamar Jackson put his speed on display and Robert Griffin III gave Breshad Perriman a much-needed confidence boost.

Here's what we learned from their 33-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams. 

1. First teamers make it count

It took Joe Flacco and the first-team offense all of 4 minutes and 46 seconds to get themselves on the board. During the 10-play, 70-yard drive, Flacco connected with rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, Javorius Allen, John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and finally, Patrick Ricard for a six-yard touchdown. During the impressive drive, Flacco showed his own mobility by getting out of the pocket for a three-yard gain and a classic Flacco slide. 

Flacco connecting with three of his newest receivers is what we've been waiting to see all offseason. Even though it was just one preseason drive, it's a step in the right direction after the Ravens' 2017 offense ranked 29th in the league in passing. 

"Listen, our guys are really showing up," Flacco said at halftime. "We've had a great camp, and it was good to come out here and see it carry over into a game."

"I think once the regular season starts, this isn't going to mean anything," said Flacco postgame. "But what it does for our confidence as a group, our confidence as a team, that will carry us pretty far into the season."

2. A lot of room to grow for Lamar Jackson

Jackson followed up the Ravens' successful first drive with one of his own. The rookie hit Chris Moore for a 36-yard gain before putting his footwork on display faking out several Rams defenders en route to a 9-yard touchdown run. 

While he made improvements from his Hall of Fame Game appearance, Jackson showed he still has a lot to learn, finishing the night 7-18 for 119 yards. With two preseason games under his belt, Jackson received high praise from his head coach John Harbaugh and Flacco on which he carries himself. 

"He does seem poised for a rookie," coach John Harbaugh said. "Even on the sideline, he may not know everything ... but he comes off the field and knows exactly what he did. I think he's really going to continue to blossom for that reason. He handles situations very well."

Flacco followed up on Harbaugh's comments by calling his touchdown run "pretty impressive" and said it's been good getting to talk to him on the sideline and that "he's a confident young kid... [that's been] handling himself really well."


3. A much-needed confidence boost for Perriman

The Ravens showed their former first-round pick they still have faith in him after picking up his $649K roster bonus included in the final year of his rookie contract earlier this offseason.

During last week's Hall of Fame Game, Perriman dropped a pass from RGIII that turned into an interception. However, the duo redeemed themselves against the Rams when Griffin III threw a 32-yard bomb to the back left corner of the end zone to Perriman. 

A smiling Perriman could be found in the Ravens' locker room after the win saying the play was "definitely a confidence boost" and is just thankful to finally be healthy during the preseason for pretty much the first time in his career. 

He will have to continue to fight for his spot on the 53-man roster with the additions of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. 

4. Williams continues to be a threat

The 2017 third-round pick followed up his strong performance at the Hall of Fame Game – where he had a total of 41 pass-rushing snaps resulting in six hurries, one QB hit and a pass rush productivity of 17.1 according to Pro Football Focus – with another stellar performance.

During Thursday's matchup, the edge rusher out of Alabama had multiple hurries and a strip sack in the third for the first sack of the preseason.

Williams was following in the footsteps of the Ravens' first-team defense who finished their opening drive with a sack from Matthew Judon on third down to force the punt and an interception in the second from Maurice Canady. 

Ravens vs. Rams Notes

— The competition at right tackle between James Hurst and Orlando Brown Jr. is heating up. Brown Jr. played into the third quarter Thursday after getting in 60 snaps during the Hall of Fame Game. Quarterback Joe Flacco praised the third-round pick saying, "You can't ignore the fact that he's got the ability. He's just so big. He swallows people up. He has the natural ability to play that position and be a really good football player, so it's just exciting to see." 

— The Ravens got two W's last night when John Harbaugh quoted THE Michael Scott when asked about avoiding the injury bug during the preseason. Harbaugh said, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious." Classic. 

— While the preseason record does not matter whatsoever, the Ravens haven't lost a preseason game since Sept. 3, 2015. They now have ten days until they head to Indianapolis to face the Colts. 

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