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If you thought the San Francisco 49ers had some extra motivation to beat the Cleveland Browns on Monday night, you were right. Niners cornerback Richard Sherman said the team was fueled by Baker Mayfield’s handshake snub during the coin toss, according to Michael Silver of NFL.com.
As one of the Browns’ captains, Mayfield was one of the few players on the field for the coin toss. During this time, players from both teams typically shake hands and exchange pleasantries. It’s a tradition in the NFL, according to Sherman.
It also explains why Sherman was upset when he says Mayfield refused to shake hands with 49ers players before the coin toss. Sherman called it “some college s---,” among other things.
"What's amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning," Sherman said. "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."
Sherman’s story was thrown into question after video emerged that appears to show Mayfield shaking hands with Sherman.
Sherman clarified it was Mayfield running away from the coin toss that angered the 49ers.
Sherman continued to defend that point for the next couple hours on Twitter. Eventually, he said everyone else was blowing the handshake out of proportion, and that he was focusing on the 49ers’ next game.
Whether or not the snub was real, the 49ers made Mayfield pay for it. The Browns scored just three points in a 31-3 blowout loss against the 49ers. Mayfield completed just eight of 22 attempts, and was held to 100 yards passing. He was picked off twice and failed to throw a touchdown. It was the first time in Mayfield’s 18 starts that he did not throw a touchdown.
On top of that, Mayfield was under pressure all night. He was sacked four times, including two by No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa. The 21-year-old Bosa was also fired up about taking down Mayfield. After forcing an incomplete pass, Bosa stood up and mimicked Mayfield’s plant the flag celebration. Mayfield planted an Oklahoma flag on Ohio State’s field after a win in 2017.
Sherman, 31, added that it’s OK for Mayfield to have rivals. But the quarterback needs to put that aside in those moments, especially when Mayfield hasn’t accomplished much in the NFL, Sherman told Silver.
"Respect the game," Sherman said, referencing Mayfield's pregame behavior. "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 he 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."
Mayfield and the Browns have been humbled quite a bit this season. After coming into the year with huge expectations, the team has started the season just 2-3. Offensive struggles have been a big part of that. The Browns rank 25th in points per game, 19th in passing yards and have thrown eight interceptions — tied for the most in the NFL.
Given all that, the 49ers didn’t need extra motivation to take down the Browns. San Francisco was the better team before Mayfield snubbed players during the coin toss.
The Browns’ offense will likely get better as the season goes on. Mayfield showed plenty of promise as a rookie, and Odell Beckham Jr. remains one of the best playmakers in football. It’s not going to come easy, though.
Mayfield has painted a target on the team’s back with his cockiness and bravado. That approach works well when your team is winning. It backfires spectacularly when you struggle.
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