NFL Investigation Into ‘Autographgate’ Complete | League Finds Referees Were Not Asking Bucs WR Mike Evans For His John Hancock

A video shot by a reporter in Charlotte appears to show two NFL officials approaching Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the tunnel of Bank of America Stadium and asking him to sign something. (Screenshot Sheena Quick Video)

Sunday’s game between the rebuilding Carolina Panthers and preseason Super Bowl contender Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t go as most figured it would. On the field, the Panthers surprised the reeling Bucs, winning 21-3 and sending Tampa home with a 3-4 record.

What took place on the gridiron was almost forgotten about following what happened in the tunnel as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms. Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans was approached by two game officials who appeared to ask the former Texas A&M Aggies star to sign an autograph, which would be a blatant violation of league policy.

A statement via Tom Pelissero read like this.

“The NFL is reviewing the incident involving side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter, I’m told. The NFL-NFLRA CBA specifically says game officials ‘shall not… ask players, coaches, or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.’”

That policy is in place to keep the integrity of the game intact. And for an official of 21 years to not know that is odd. He may have been getting the autograph for someone or even for a worthy cause, but that’s still against the rules, and he knows it. Officials are permitted to seek autographs through the league’s officiating department.

NFL Says Refs Not Seeking Autograph 

According to the NFL, following an investigation into the matter, the league concluded that the referees were not seeking autographs.

“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. “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 NFL did agree, however, that it was not a good look.

Evans Had A Rough Day: The Fake Autograph Drama Was Highlight Of His Afternoon

Evans is one of the most sure-handed receivers in the NFL, and he’s the only receiver in NFL history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in each of his first eight seasons. In short, Evans catches any and everything near him. That is until Sunday, when the four-time Pro Bowl player dropped a wide-open touchdown pass that, as he stated, took the life out of the Bucs team.

Overall Tampa looks lost and disinterested. From head coach Todd Bowles to offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich to 23-year veteran QB Tom Brady, who’s had outbursts of frustration with things this season. Evans’ drop was just a culmination of how bad things have gotten down in central Florida, and it was truly unexpected.

Buccaneers Haven’t Looked The Same Since Antonio Brown Lost His Marbles

Last season, the Buccaneers offense was humming until former wideout Antonio Brown undressed and left the field against the Jets. Since AB’s unforgettable departure, the offense has been void of a deep threat, which has also weakened the running game, as more players are in the box. The offensive woes have had a negative effect on a once dominant defense, which can’t seem to get off the field in big down-and-distance situations.

For Evans, the brief “I gotcha moment” by Carolina Panthers reporter Sheena Quick is the least of his worries as the Bucs have some real issues to fix if they want to become the Super Bowl contenders that analysts projected coming into the season.