BRADENTON, Fla. — The San Francisco 49ers suspended radio analyst Tim Ryan on Wednesday after he said on a Bay Area radio station that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s dark skin helps him disguise a dark football when running fake handoffs in Baltimore’s zone-read heavy offense.
Ryan will not broadcast Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints while serving the suspension. The Niners released a statement on the matter Wednesday evening from Florida, where they are practicing at IMG Academy in preparation to play at the Saints after losing 20-17 to the Ravens last week.
“We are disappointed in Tim Ryan’s comments earlier this week, and have suspended him for the upcoming game,” the statement said. “We hold Tim to a high standard as a representative of our organization and he must be more thoughtful with his words. 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.”
Ryan made the comments early in an interview on the “Murph and Mac” show on KNBR radio in San Francisco on Monday morning when discussing Jackson’s success running the ball against the Niners. KNBR is the Niners’ radio partner and broadcasts all of the team’s games.
“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 air. “I mean you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point.”
Jackson led Baltimore to the win against the Niners after rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries and throwing for 105 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-23 passing. Much of that production in the running game came on the zone-read plays that have become a staple of Baltimore’s offense with Jackson and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Jackson gained a career-high 70 yards on zone-read runs, the most a quarterback has rushed for on those plays since Robert Griffin III in 2013, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Ryan also issued a statement Wednesday, apologizing for his comments.
“I regret my choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game,” Ryan said in the statement. “Lamar Jackson is an MVP-caliber player and I respect him greatly. I want to sincerely apologize to him and anyone else I offended.”
According to the team’s release, representatives from the Niners reached out to the Ravens, explained what happened, apologized for Ryan’s words and said “the matter is not being taken lightly.”
Ryan, who played in 58 games over four years as a defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears in the early 1990s, has been the Niners’ radio analyst since 2014 after spending 12 seasons in that same role for Fox television.
The 49ers have yet to determine who will replace Ryan on Sunday’s broadcast from New Orleans.