Mike Evans leans on faith as NFL clears him, officials of wrongdoing 

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Issa, FISM News


Mike Evans’ desire to improve his golf game caused quite a stir around the NFL.

The Buccaneers’ star wide receiver was seen on video writing on a piece of paper that was handed to him by two game officials in the tunnel of Bank of America Stadium after Tampa Bay’s 21-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The league investigated the interaction after it was widely speculated that Evans gave the officials an autograph. No wrongdoing by any of the parties was found.

“After speaking with the individuals involved, we have confirmed that the postgame interaction between Jeff Lamberth, Tripp Sutter, and Mike Evans did not involve a request by the game officials for an autograph,” the league said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

On Monday, a video captured by a reporter showed Lamberth and Sutter approaching Evans as he made his way toward the locker room. A short inaudible exchange between the game officials and Evans occurred before the four-time Pro Bowl player turned around and was handed a slip of paper. A second video posted by a reporter from 1340 AM Fox Sports showed Evans writing something as Lamberth stood next to him while other players made their way past them to the locker room.

“I wasn’t signing my autograph, I’ll tell you that,” Evans said after the Buccaneers’ practice Tuesday. “I talk to a lot of officials. We’re all human beings. He’s a nice guy. We were just talking about golf. That’s all we were talking about.”

The NFL Network reported that Lamberth and Evans both went to Texas A&M, and the side judge was merely getting Evans’ phone number to pass it along to a golf pro to give Evans lessons. Lamberth didn’t have any paper or his phone with him, so he borrowed paper from another official.

According to the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, game officials are not allowed to “ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.”

In addition, game officials are not allowed “to sell or trade NFL tickets for anything of greater value than the face value of the tickets” or “sell or trade for anything of value NFL merchandise, autographs or memorabilia.”

The CBA goes on to stipulate that game officials may need to obtain player autographs or team merchandise or memorabilia for personal or charitable purposes but said that such requests should be made through the officiating department and never to a player or team employee directly.

The 29-year-old Evans is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and the No. 1 target for Tom Brady. He is the first player in NFL history with at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first eight seasons.

Faith, family, and foundation

Evans uses his platform to give back to the community through his Mike Evans Family Foundation, which started in 2017. His mission is to make a difference in the lives of children in need and families that are impacted by domestic violence.

The work starts with his Christian faith being his foundation.

“I got baptized when I was in seventh grade. That moment was special, and ever since I just felt God with me all the time,” Evans told Faith On The Field Show. “I can’t even explain it, and people would know who have faith, they’ll know what I’m talking about. But I feel like everything that’s happened in my life is because of God. [He] gets you through every tough time. You just have to lean on him. No matter what it is, he can get you through it.”