Tampa Bay Buccaneers star wide receiver Mike Evans has confirmed he wasn’t signing an autograph for side judge Jeff Lamberth following this past Sunday’s 21-3 loss at the Carolina Panthers.
“I wasn’t signing my autograph, I’ll tell you that,” Evans explained Tuesday about what was potentially a controversial situation, per Kevin Seifert of ESPN. “I talk to a lot of officials, we’re all human beings. He’s a nice guy, so we was talking about golf. That’s all we was talking about.”
Eyebrows were raised when a video surfaced appearing to show Evans scribbling something on a piece of paper after he was approached by Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter on Sunday. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero later reported that Lamberth, like Evans, previously attended Texas A&M and merely wanted to obtain the receiver’s phone number to give the digits to a golf professional regarding future lessons.
Seifert noted that the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association prohibits officials from directly and publicly approaching players and coaches for autographs. Any requests from officials for autographs and/or memorabilia for charitable purposes must go through the NFL’s officiating department.
“Both Lamberth and Sutter have been reminded of the importance of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety when interacting with players, coaches, and club staff on gameday — including during the pregame and postgame time periods,” the league said in a statement released Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio isn’t completely buying what Evans was selling.
“To say ‘we were talking about golf’ when the question is what he wrote on a card is like saying ‘I ordered pizza for dinner’ when the question is what movie you went to see after the meal,” Florio wrote. “The whole thing is weird. The league’s refusal to be transparent made it weirder. Evans’s refusal to be transparent makes it weirder still, because he did nothing wrong. There’s no reason for him to not tell the truth. Unless, of course, he doesn’t want the folks who enforce and apply the rules to hold a grudge against him.”