By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You know, when it comes to a soap opera-level of drama, no other sports league can touch the National Basketball Association. That league is in its own universe.
Still, the NFL this week has offered up a couple of instances that show that football players have feelings, too.
You might have missed the first, as it involved a war of words between Bills D-lineman Shaq Lawson and Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lawson said the Bills knew all of the weaknesses of Lewan — who was playing in his first game after serving a PED suspension — and he also said that Lewan was a “fake tough guy.”
Lewan responded in a way that may have lent some credence to that assessment.
He responded by tweeting.
— Taylor Lewan (@TaylorLewan77) October 7, 2019
Those two adults had a little slap fight online, and the internet watched, and another Bills player jumped in as the third man, and it was moderately entertaining.
Still was whooping your ass all game https://t.co/ibcq2LldID
— Shaq Lawson (@Shaq_Lawson90) October 7, 2019
Go get drug tested again bum your soft cry baby I’m surprised you even finished the game better
— Jordan Phillips (@bigj9797) October 7, 2019
Turns out, that was just the warmup act for the main event of the week in terms of NFL drama.
And, really, we should have seen this one coming. This time, it involved Baker Mayfield and Richard Sherman, two professional football players who are not exactly known for keeping their opinions to themselves. They’re confident, to say the least.
So, when the captains took the field at midgame for the pregame coin toss and Mayfield refused to shake hands with the 49ers’ captians? Whoa boy, was Richard Sherman ever miffed.
The fella was steaming.
Nobody knew about the handshake snub, though, until after the game, when the victorious Sherman let it rip when talking with NFL.com’s Mike Silver.
Here’s what Sherman told Silver:
“What’s amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning. That’s some college s—. It’s ridiculous. We’re all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent — that’s NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that’s disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that’s gonna get us fired up.”
“Respect the game. You can have rivals, but pay your respect in that moment — especially when you’re young. He hasn’t earned anything in this league. How many games has he won? He’s acting like he was the MVP last year. If [Patrick] Mahomes did that, it would be one thing. But [Mahomes] would never do that, because he has too much respect for the game.
“And when you see a guy who doesn’t? You humble him every chance you get. Because eventually, he will have respect for the league — or he’ll be out of it.”
Those words are strong. Strong to quite strong, in fact.
While Sherman’s assessment that Mayfield may end up “out of the league” may be a slight exaggeration, the reality for Mayfield is that despite all of that braggadocio, he’s now 8-10 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. This year, he’s led the Super Bowl-hopeful Browns to a disappointing 2-3 record, while throwing just four touchdowns and a league-leading eight interceptions.
Because sports are sometimes awesome, Sherman was the recipient of one of those interceptions on Monday night.
You love to see it. @RSherman_25 picks off Baker Mayfield.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) October 8, 2019
Sherman was not the only 49er who was furious with Mayfield during this game, as Nick Bosa released some pent-up rage that he’s been harboring toward Mayfield ever since the then-Oklahoma QB tried to plant an OU flag in the turf at Ohio State.
Baker Mayfield planted the Oklahoma flag in Ohio State's field two years ago…
OSU’s Nick Bosa waved and planted a flag after hitting Baker tonight.
Waited for his revenge 🌶
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 8, 2019
You don’t often hear a rookie go off in a postgame interview, but Bosa likewise held nothing back when talking about Mayfield.
“He was panicking. He was double-clutching. Rolling back and forth. We had him rattled all game,” Bosa said, per Eric Branch of The San Francisco Chronicle. “I just wanted to get payback. [Mayfield] had it coming. … I don’t usually talk, but this game he had it coming. He didn’t say one word back. … I was just screaming his name: ‘Baaaaker. Baaaaker. You good? C’mon, we want a challenge.'”
The normally outspoken Mayfield didn’t offer much when asked about Bosa’s imaginary flag planting.
“No, I didn’t know that until I was informed before I got up here,” Mayfield said at the podium. “Good for him. Good play.”
Mayfield finished the game with an absolutely brutal stat line. He completed just eight of his 22 passes (36.4 percent) for 100 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions (though the second interception came after a receiver drop). Mayfield also took four sacks, fumbling twice and losing one. He had a passer rating of 13.4.
Bosa, meanwhile, recorded four solo tackles, including two sacks and another tackle for a loss. He was credited with five quarterback hits.
Sherman also had four solo tackles, with the first-quarter interception that helped prevent the Browns from ever establishing any sort of offensive rhythm. The Niners won 31-3 in a game that was over at halftime.
If we had known at the time that Sherman was miffed about the pregame snub, the moment of the interception would have been all the more exciting. And frankly, it’s a disappointment that the older, wiser Richard Sherman did not scream into a microphone and TV camera immediately after the game, as he once famously did while feeling some rage toward Michael Crabtree.
Nevertheless, though we may not see another Sherman-Mayfield matchup for a few more years (and possibly not ever again), this offering on an otherwise boring Monday night was a welcome chapter to the on/off-field drama that always adds a little bit more intrigue once the ball is snapped.
They play in different conferences, and Sherman is 31 years old, so it’s possible that the feud ends here. BUT! If these two ever do meet again … you’re going to need to clean out your local cinema’s entire supply of popcorn before kickoff. Things could get ugly.
UPDATE! UPDATE! IMPORTANT UPDATE!
So, all of that previous message still holds true, but I do believe this feud has gained a new wrinkle, now that video of the alleged handshake snug has surfaced. Look for yourself:
Here is the moment that Baker supposedly “snubbed” Richard Sherman’s handshake. pic.twitter.com/DyIfvMFDmR
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) October 8, 2019
Did that look like Mayfield big-timing Sherman? Our view is obviously obscured, but Mayfield didn’t seem too standoffish for that midfield meeting.
Did Sherman make it all up just to make a big postgame speech? Or did the large frame of George Kittle block out what was an egregious showing of disrespect by the QB? We may never get a straight answer. Hopefully we get some more commentary from the involved parties, though.
That didn’t take long. Sherman has doubled down on his insistence, despite the questionable video footage.
He didn’t shake my hand.
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 8, 2019
How long will Baker be able to stay quiet about it?
WE’VE GOT A THIRD UPDATE
OK, sorry, Richard, but this is a handshake.
More Zapruder film from Handshakegate courtesy of ESPN. Baker Mayfield and Richard Sherman do a quick handshake before the coin toss, then Baker runs off after the coin toss and you can see Sherman wave bye to him. 🤝 pic.twitter.com/UQPPdGYYBT
— Clayton Holloway (@HollowClay) October 8, 2019
That is a handshake. That Mayfield popped out after the toss is no big deal, as the Browns were set to receive the football, thus springing the QB into action.
That’s a handshake, Richard.
UPDATE NO. 4!!
OK, here’s the deal. They shook hands. But Baker kind of started off into the distance.
WHAT IS SHERM TALKING ABOUT HE LITERALLY SHOOK BAKER'S HAND
BAKER SHOOK EVERYONE'S HAND pic.twitter.com/Vl5AjYt5Jv
— Cappin America (@FlammyMarciano) October 8, 2019
Meanwhile Sherman has sent off MANY tweets, arguing with fans about this, that, and the other thing.
Yea that looks like him reaching out for a handshake as I’m standing right in front of him. But hey your a Browns fan how can I expect anything logical to make sense pic.twitter.com/DUOVOTxXSE
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 8, 2019
Hahahahaha a Browns fan thinking I have to make up a story lmao. Hahaha hope your time as a browns fan has been as enjoyable as I think it has.
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 8, 2019
It’s not great.
While it looked like a captivating story for a while, methinks we’re going to have to score this one in favor of Baker. The tape does not lie.
Goodness Gracious. A Fifth Update.
So, amidst the deletion of many ill-conceived tweets, Sherman’s story has changed. Now the story isn’t that Mayfield didn’t shake his hand. Now, the story is that Mayfield didn’t shake his hand a second time, AFTER the coin flip.
Asked @R_Sherman25 about the video out there.
He said it was Baker Mayfield darting away after the toss that angered the Niners: "That’s it. They are making way too big of a story of a blowout. He pissed us off. We put a foot in his ass. End of story."
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 8, 2019
And now this….
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 8, 2019
The story had to change after videos like that began to surface.
“So you don’t see any difference in the way I shake everyone else’s hand and the guy who stands back with the petty shake,” Sherman tweeted in response to Pat McAfee. “Was [B.S.] and I took offense to it then turns and runs off. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Au contraire, Mr. Sherman. It is the biggest deal.