NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Culliver slowly walked to his table at the Marriott New Orleans, cap on, waiting for the media horde to part so he could get through to his seat.
The San Francisco 49ers cornerback looked very much like a man who knew what was coming. One day after being ignored by the media, Culliver knew he was in for 45 uncomfortable minutes because of his comments about not accepting a gay teammate. The 49ers quickly released a statement rejecting Culliver's words, and Culliver apologized in a statement issued Wednesday night.
Thursday's media availability was something to endure. The crush of media around Culliver was suffocating just to look at. It appeared he had tears in his eyes.
Once he was seated, Culliver repeatedly apologized in a number of different ways.
"That's not what's in my heart," he said.
"I told (Harbaugh) how I feel in my heart. That's not how I feel in my heart," Culliver said.
Other than that, Culliver kept his conversations with others private. He said at another point that he was just "kidding around" when he made the comments.
Harbaugh repeated the message.
"There's not malice in his heart," the coach said. "He's not an ugly person. He's not a discriminatory person. I really believe that this is something that he'll learn and grow from."
Culliver's comments toward homosexuals were regrettable, to say the least. And now he has experienced a very public shaming. After watching him Thursday, there's no doubt Culliver paid a price for his remarks. It's something he should learn from.
By the end of a session full of awkward silences, Culliver simply seemed to be in a daze. He looked like a young kid, wondering what the hell just happened.
We talk about "distractions" all the time in professional sports. Watching Culliver, I couldn't help but wonder how this experience will affect him in the coming days.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.