Saints flanker Calum Clark paid tribute to the club and his team-mates after returning from a 32-week ban on Saturday.
Clark played the full 80 minutes at Welford Road, turning in a mature performance as Northampton battled to claim a losing bonus point in a 16-12 defeat to local rivals Leicester Tigers.
It was the 23-year-old’s first start since being slapped with the lengthy suspension for hyper-extending the elbow of Tigers hooker Rob Hawkins during the LV= Cup final in March.
And Clark later took to social networking site Twitter in an outpouring of emotion, which saw him express his gratitude for the support he has received during his spell on the sidelines.
He said: “I have been to some dark places over the last 32 weeks. A lot of people have had their say. I’m going to take my turn.
“I am ashamed and sorry for what happened. I have taken a long, hard look in the mirror and blame nobody but myself. I have learnt a lot.
“I would like to thank my club, who stood by me, and my team-mates, who have had to carry me for such a long time.
“Today (Saturday) couldn’t have been much tougher a challenge. Once in a lifetime. We did our best and lost.
Clark did not receive the red-hot reception many expected at Welford Road, merely being subjected to some mild booing as his name was read out by the stadium announcer.
He went on to have a fine game, which yielded praise from Saints boss Jim Mallinder, who said: “I thought he was outstanding. To come back and play 80 minutes in such an intensive game as that was good.
“We’ve got no doubts about Calum in terms of where he is. He’s one of our leaders. We’ve missed him and we’re glad he’s back.”