The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback finally responded weeks after getting hit with a verbal right hook from ex-Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who signed a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos this offseason. Sanders was asked how Ben Roethlisberger, his former quarterback, compared to his new quarterback, Peyton Manning.
"I feel like Peyton is a far better leader, in terms of staying practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort," Sanders said a couple weeks ago when training camps opened. "He’s not one of those guys you’ve got to chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint."
OK, while the comments might seem harsh at first, it’s not that unusual. Players often sing the praises of their new teammates when they arrive in a new city. No problem there.
But things escalated when Sanders appeared on NFL Network this week and stood by his remarks.
"I have not one regret. If I said it, then I meant it," Sanders said.
"I was more disappointed that he didn’t reach out to me," Big Ben said. "I know he told some other guys: ‘You know I love Ben, I didn’t mean it like that.’ I wish he would have reached out to me and just say that and I would have been fine with it."
Sanders said on NFL Network that his statement wasn’t "meant as disrespect for anyone" and that he "didn’t mean any harm," but those words hurt his former quarterback.
"Whether he meant it or not, it hurt in a sense that I tried so hard to keep him here last year and was always supporting him. When he was down in practice, I always talked to him. When he had a baby, I was trying to help him," Roethlisberger said to the Post-Gazette.
Fair enough. Maybe Sanders should have taken into consideration. And furthermore, it’s never good business to bash your former employer after you head out the door, even if you don’t mean any harm. Why burn a bridge?