The emotions caught Steve Keim a couple of times Wednesday, the first time the Cardinals' general manager addressed the media following his July DUI arrest and subsequent five-week suspension.
"For the past 50 days, I've replayed over and over in my mind, what would I say or how could I apologize in a way that people would understand, or forgive me for my inexcusable actions," Keim said. "The truth is, there is nothing I can say that can make what I did right. In fact, taking ownership and my behavior going forward is what ultimately will define me as a man."
He had returned to the team Tuesday, coach Steve Wilks said, talking then to the entire organization and speaking to the players Wednesday morning.
But as he apologized again in front of the cameras to his family, the fans and the organization, he fought tears as he recounted a text message conversation his 12-year-old son had at one point with a friend.
The friend texted Keim's son that he was sorry TV news stations repeatedly showed his dad over and over and that he was sorry Keim had to go through that.
"My son said, 'I'm not. He shouldn't have been doing it,' " Keim recounted. "My son was right. I don't think there is any feeling that's worse than feeling like you let your children down."
Keim's suspension had begun July 17, forcing him away from the entirety of training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium. Keim had also been fined $200,000, which was subsequently donated to the Arizona chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Keim was prohibited contact with the team during his suspension and barred from the team's facility.
In order to return, Keim had to complete counseling and evaluation, in addition to a DUI education course. Keim also had to take part in DUI awareness and education programs.
Wilks reiterated the stance put forward by team president Michael Bidwill at the opening of camp, that the organization doesn't condone Keim's behavior.
"Steve and I, in a short period of time, have become real close," Wilks said. "I know him as a person, beyond the GM role, and for anyone to endure and go through what he did … we're not saying we feel sorry for him, because again, it was poor judgment, but I can't commend him enough with the way he has stepped up and taken ownership.
"It touched my heart the fact of how it affected his family. When you start talking about kids … it really hits home. I think he's grown from it."
Keim called the experience "extremely humbling and embarrassing beyond belief." He acknowledged it was "torture" for him to be away from the team, unable to do a job that means everything to him. He added he hurt the two things he loves the most – family and football.
"At the same time I don't know if it was a bad thing to take that time, to self-evaluate and look at my behaviors, and become stronger as a man," Keim said.
Keim, who signed a contract extension in February through the 2022 season, complimented the work the rest of the front office did in his absence, as well as Bidwill, who became much more involved in the day-to-day football operations.
The Cardinals are preparing for their third preseason game Sunday in Dallas. Teams must cut from a 90-man roster to 53 by 1 p.m. Sept. 1 following the preseason finale Aug. 30.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters said Keim made clear to the players was that he was taking responsibility.
"He's our brother," Peters said. "We'll accept him back in."
Keim, asked if the situation would make it harder to deal with players, said he actually believed it would be the opposite.
"I think I'll be able to relate better," Keim said. "That's one of the things I've done over the years, I've talked to players at the (Scouting) combine who have had troubled pasts, it's hard to put yourself in those shoes … I'm not saying it's a positive this happened, but to make the best of it, to grow from it, that's something I can take away."
Keim, looking trim and wearing a beard, reiterated multiple times that he must learn from what he went through.
"It's not a mistake, it's a poor decision," Keim said. "Again, it's humbling. I'm extremely remorseful. (But) you have to grow, you have to become stronger."