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Pat McAfee opens up on relationship with Ryan Grigson: “He and I did not like each other at all”

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Pat McAfee, the former punter for the Indianapolis Colts, announced overnight that he is retiring from the NFL to pursue a career with Barstool. McAfee will be the COO of Barstool Indy, and he’s super excited for the next step.

He appeared on the radio with JMV on 1070 the Fan this afternoon and explained his decision-making and what’s next for him, but he also was asked about his comments regarding Ryan Grigson. If you remember, McAfee took to Twitter to publicly bash Grigson after he was fired, saying “Thank God” and mentioning Grigson’s arrogance and how he treated people badly.

When it came to that subject, the interesting part really picked up when he was asked whether Jim Irsay tried to talk him out of his retirement decison. McAfee said that he told Chuck Pagano with a few weeks left in the season that he was considering retirement and then talked with Irsay after Chris Ballard’s press conference on Monday, and one thing that’s clear is that McAfee is filled with praise for Irsay (he said that Irsay has already sent him some articles to read to help him prepare for his next career and that Irsay is trying to help however he can). But he was then asked whether Irsay tried to talk him out of it.

“Yeah, for sure,” McAfee said. “I mean, he said, ‘listen, your decision is your decision,’ is basically what he told me. He said ‘but I want you to know’ - because he knew that the last GM and I didn’t have a good relationship so that might have made me have sour feelings coming into work and stuff like that, so he tried to chit-chat about that, about, ‘you know, a clean slate, a restart’ and all that stuff, but by that point it wasn’t about who my boss was or things like that, I just wanted to shift my focus from kicking footballs to hopefully making the world a happier place. That’s really all it comes down to. I have an obsessive-like focus when I get into anything. I think you have to be if you’re going to be a professional athlete, and for me I just want to shift that focus toward making people laugh and having a happier world, and I get to do it from Indianapolis and that’s just a win-win-win-win-win.”

It’s interesting that one of the things Jim Irsay brought up to McAfee when trying to convince him to return was that Ryan Grigson was gone so it could be a sort of restart for McAfee. In other words, Irsay clearly knew about the poor relationship between Grigson and McAfee.

So, about that relationship with Grigson... McAfee opened up on that a bit too.

“Yeah I think you can just describe it as a hate,” McAfee said. “I mean, he did not like me at all, from day one. Our first conversation was a negotiation where he called me the lowest thing in the organization and all this stuff. He did not want to keep me around. If you remember, he got rid of all the ex-players except for Hall of Famers, really. And I think Mr. Irsay and I have had a really good relationship for a long time, I think Mr. Irsay might have told him that he had to keep me and I don’t think he enjoyed that much. So we just hadn’t really got along. And that’s going to happen and all that stuff, but in the facility that I work in I have a lot of friends at the Colts facility, you’re talking about athletic trainers that I’m really good friends with, people that I consider family, equipment managers, coaches, and I was happy that he got relieved of his duties because he just didn’t treat people the right way. I’m a big believer in you just got to treat people the right way. You can be a tough guy and not be an ass. I think there’s a big difference in there.

“I think Ryan will be a good GM one day because he has a great work ethic, but I think the way he handled people and the communication thing was just horrendous, and I think this is a wake-up call for him. Hopefully he’ll go on to have success, but he and I did not like each other at all. So I was excited that he got let go mostly because I have a lot of family in that West 56th office and I want the Colts to be successful and I think that Chris Ballard will be the guy that comes in and kind of brings the Colts back to a building that has some harmony.”

McAfee didn’t seem to want to totally or unfairly bash Grigson, but he also wasn’t afraid to share his honest opinion either. And though it’s just one side of the situation, McAfee’s comments are particularly interesting in saying that Grigson wanted to get rid of him. He talked about that a bit more later on, but first he was asked whether other players in the locker room felt the same way he did.

“Well, I mean I don’t need to pile on about that type of stuff,” McAfee said, “and I never talked about my dislike of the guy or how he treated people in the locker room because you never want to be a cancer, right, you never want to spread negativity in the locker room because it’s a big team sport. We’re all in this together, you know? But after I came out and spoke, I got a lot of text messages and DMs and stuff from ex-teammates and you know just basically thanking me for putting it out there, because a lot of my really good friends were treated poorly. It’s the business of the NFL, but just the way he went about it was just new. I think it wasn’t the norm, and I got a lot of text messages from a lot of guys telling me thank you, basically, for speaking up and saying something because most people don’t do that. In the NFL, you can’t really speak out about much because there’s so many people that want your position and me doing that I think a lot of people were appreciative because I was speaking for a lot of people there.”

It’s fair to wonder whether the reason McAfee spoke up publicly was because he knew he was going to retire, leading to the question of whether he would have said the same thing had he planned on playing more. But either way, McAfee’s opinions seem to have been shared - just like Reggie Wayne and other former players expressed a few weeks ago. But going back to what McAfee had mentioned earlier, was it really Jim Irsay that told Ryan Grigson that he had to keep McAfee?

“Yeah, I’m pretty certain,” McAfee said. “And you’ve got to remember, it’s completely understood for a guy, new GM. At that point I was two years away from my public intoxication, I was a good punter but was I great? Not at that time I wasn’t, so I think he had a lot of negative connotations about me coming into Indianapolis because people who don’t know me probably if they read my Twitter they can get a bad kind of rap about me, but all I try to do at work is just work my ass off and be great, and I don’t think he really saw that side or wanted to see that side. I think he just had a bad impression about me at the beginning and I think that Mr. Irsay was the one that kept me in town.”

That’s obviously a lot to take in, and it’s just part of a long conversation in which McAfee talked about his new career and what he’s going to be doing. But to sort of tie up the Grigson saga it’s fitting to look at McAfee explain his thoughts more. Now, again, this is just one side of things, but McAfee’s comments about Grigson include a few very interesting things.

Firstly, that part of what Jim Irsay told him in trying to convince him to return was that with Ryan Grigson gone there was a clean slate and restart. If the owner is trying to convince a guy to come back because of the fact that the GM is gone, that’s very telling.

Secondly, McAfee said Grigson treated people terribly (and he strongly implied that it was more than just players by mentioning the equipment staff and trainers and coaches, etc.), and that’s why he didn’t like him. He said that “you can be a tough guy and not be an ass.” And he said that he got plenty of messages from guys thanking him for what he said publicly, suggesting that his views were shared by many.

Thirdly, McAfee said that Grigson wanted him gone. I realize some will doubt this because McAfee went on to be the NFL’s best punter over the past several years, but McAfee actually understood where Grigson was coming from: when the GM came in he got rid of a lot of the players and saw a guy in McAfee who had been arrested two years earlier. So in McAfee’s view, this started from the very beginning, not just when his contract was up in 2014. And McAfee implies that Grigson wanted to get rid of him right away, not just when his contract was up. It was Jim Irsay, though, who stepped in and kept McAfee - at least according to Pat today in the interview.

It’s all history now, as neither Ryan Grigson nor Pat McAfee is with the Colts any longer. But McAfee helped clear some things up today by opening up further on his thoughts about Grigson, and it’s quite clear that they didn’t really care for each other.