Nothing to see here, just a NFL referee allegedly asking Mike Evans for his autograph (UPDATE: Mike Evans was getting a golf pro's number. Wait, what?)
To suggest that the NFL or the referees in any way "fixed" Sunday's Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Carolina Panthers game in favor of the Bucs would not only be incorrect, but it would be among the dumbest statements ever made. TOMpa Bay barely even sniffed the end zone in the contest, losing 21-3 as a double-digit favorite to fall to 3-4 on the season. The officials couldn't have rigged the game in Tampa's favor if they tried.
But that doesn't make this postgame exchange between a referee and Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans any less strange. As you'll hear in the rogue video below, the official in question can be heard saying "Mike! Mike!" before chasing him down and asking him to sign a small card. We have no idea what's on that small card or if this is an autograph situation or something else entirely. All we can do is show you the video what happened, captured by Panthers beat reporter Sheena Quick:
File this one under things that make you go "hmmmm....," which is literally all we can do right now. Hmmm. That's odd. Why would a referee have Evans sign that little card? What's on that card? Was he asking for an autograph for a grandchild? For himself? Lot of questions and no answers.
What we do know, courtesy of NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero, is that this head-scratcher of an incident has gone so viral that the NFL is officially "reviewing the incident" as of 11:44 a.m. Monday morning. As Pelissero wrote on Twitter, the NFL-NFLRA CBA specifically says game officials “shall not… ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.” If that was indeed what was happening here, that's a major no-no and we'd imagine the referee, who had the look of a man who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, could be facing some discipline:
An "oh sh-t, I'm in trouble" look if we've ever seen one. Just how much trouble remains to be seen.
UPDATE: It would appear that the referee in question, side judge Jeff Lamberth, is in no trouble at all. Per Pelissero, what the official was doing might actually be considered a heroic act:
Just bros helping bros. Love to see it. Also, love to see Evans already preparing for the off-season. Buccaneers ain't making the playoffs so not a bad time to start lining up some lessons. Planning ahead >>>>