COLUMBIA -- Against South Carolina's wishes, and attempting to defend himself, suspended Gamecocks tight end Weslye Saunders spoke out Friday afternoon on a Columbia-area radio station.

Saunders, a senior, called into WNKT-FM ("107.5 The Game," USC's flagship station), wanting to go on live to defend himself against hosts saying he should be dismissed for repeatedly violating team rules.

The station's management, recognizing it would break an NCAA rule by having Saunders on live, compromised by reading a statement from Saunders.

"I love the university and my coaches," Saunders told "The Game" producer and co-host Michael Haney. "Allegations of this being all about me and me being a me-first guy and trying to bring the team down are false.

"Coach (Steve) Spurrier and me are on good terms. We did have a misunderstanding, but that's all cleared up now.

"I could not have more respect for Steve Spurrier or for (athletic director) Eric Hyman. I understand that perception is reality. People will see what they want to from the outside, but what they see is not the case on the inside."

Saunders also told Haney he believes he's in the clear when it comes to the situation involving The Whitney Hotel. Earlier in the week, Saunders owed about $5,500 in overdue rent, but sources have said he took out a loan to cover the costs.

Saunders said he's still awaiting word about the NCAA's investigation, one that began in mid-July, into whether Saunders had inappropriate contact with an agent.

Spurrier has said the school will "probably" hear on both the hotel and agent matters before the team's opener Thursday against Southern Miss.

Even Spurrier has been reprimanded about speaking publicly about the NCAA issues. So, Saunders' decision to talk about it -- much less to a radio station -- isn't being taken very well by USC officials.

He has not been made available to reporters throughout preseason camp and Friday is the first time he has spoken directly (and on-the-record) with a media member.

Saunders is currently serving an indefinite suspension for lying to Spurrier about why he was late to practice Saturday. He claimed he was talking with NCAA investigators, but Spurrier called the school's compliance officer and learned that wasn't true. He then compounded the lie, by saying he was talking to NCAA officials on the phone -- even though they don't conduct sensitive investigations on the phone.

Saunders was also suspended in January for missing too many meetings and workouts. After a team vote to determine his status, Saunders was reinstated after a week.

As of Wednesday, Saunders was still staying at The Whitney, even though Spurrier "encouraged" players to move out almost a week earlier. He had told some around him he was waiting for Hyman, and not just Spurrier, to ask him to leave.

Saunders caught 32 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns last season. Saunders was not part of an official depth chart released Friday by the school.

Pat DiMarco, Justice Cunningham and Mike Triglia are listed as the three top tight ends.

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