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Exclusive: Jim Kelly cites 'emotions' in critical remarks about McCoy

Jim Kelly admits his emotions got the better of him.

It had only been a couple of weeks earlier that he stood before his father's coffin, with the American flag draped over it, acknowledging Joe Kelly's service in the Navy.

"Yeah, there are emotions that took over, there's no doubt about it," Kelly told The Buffalo News Tuesday about the criticism he directed toward Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, saying he lost respect for him for being on the ground and stretching as the national anthem was performed before Sunday's victory against the Denver Broncos.

The Bills' Hall-of-Fame quarterback made the remarks about McCoy Monday morning, during his weekly appearance on Buffalo radio station WGRF. By Monday afternoon, Kelly was the target of criticism from Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, who called Kelly's comments "unacceptable" and said he was "very disappointed in him."

Kelly said he had a lengthy conversation with Hughes Monday night and that things are "all good" between them. "Me and Shady texted back and forth, so we're all good there, too," Kelly said.

Kelly also said he spoke with center Eric Wood and defensive tackle Kyle Williams Monday night, and had a "heart-to-heart" discussion with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus after Sunday's game.

"The bottom line is they get it, they understand that we're in this all together," Kelly said. "It bums me out when I see the negativity toward me. And I've talked to Jerry, I've talked to (fellow Hall-of-Famers) Bruce (Smith) and Thurman (Thomas). We all get it. And you know what? This might even bring our team closer."

Kelly was on one end of a line of Bills players and coaches and staff who walked 10 yards onto the field for the singing of the anthem Sunday. His left hand was raised in the air, holding his blue Bills hat. His right hand was on his heart.

A dozen current Bills players took a knee. At the other end of the line, McCoy went through his stretching routine.

Kelly said he wasn't sure of the next Bills home game this season his travel schedule would allow him to attend. The Bills are on the road the next two weeks; Buffalo's next home game is Oct. 22.

"But I'll tell you what," he said, "I will stand with them, without a doubt, but I will honor our country with standing with my hand over my heart for the United States. ... I will stand and unite with our players.

"Me standing there with the team, holding my hat up in the air, I held it up because I'm a Buffalo Bill from start to finish and I had my hand over my heart because of my father and what he stood for, all of my uncles that were in the military and my father being laid to rest two weeks before with the flag of the United States over his casket."

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Kelly stressed that he shared the feelings that the Bills have collectively expressed that they want to be unified in the wake of the harsh words of President Trump in reaction to league-wide protests that sparked pre-game demonstrations throughout the NFL Sunday and Monday night.

"I get it," he said. "I want unity, I want people to come together. I don't want separation. Black, white, it doesn't matter. That's why I was on the field to stand with our team and be able to say, 'I thank the good Lord for what I got, with my hand over my heart. And I held the Buffalo Bills hat because we're all in this together, all the Bills are in this together. That's why I did what I did.

"Like I said in my (Twitter) post, the only time I will ever take a knee is to thank the good Lord for everything I have received."

Kelly praised Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for the way he and his team handled protesting before their Monday night game against the Arizona Cardinals. Jones joined his players in walking onto the field, arms locked, and then kneeling before the anthem.

Soon thereafter, they cleared the field for the unfurling of a giant American flag, but remained standing with their arms locked.

"My hat goes off to the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones for what they did," Kelly said. "I wish we'd have done that a long time ago."

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