Swapping jerseys after games all the rage among NFL players
Seahawks trade with opponents they respect for mementos of their NFL careers, something to hang in their “man caves.”
Seattle Times staff reporter
PHOENIX — Whether or not he’s celebrating another Super Bowl win, don’t be surprised to see Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett reach out to New England defensive-line counterpart Vince Wilfork after the game.
Then the two might participate in an increasingly popular postgame ritual in the NFL — trading game jerseys.
The decades-long soccer tradition now seems almost as frequent in the NFL.
“Definitely, this year was the most I’ve ever seen it,’’ said Seattle defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, who has played in the league for nine seasons.
McDaniel speculates that social media has made it more common, with players often taking to Twitter and other sites to post pictures of jerseys they have acquired.
“More people do it now because they get on Instagram and see other guys doing it, so everybody thinks it’s cool to do it now,’’ said McDaniel.
Often, players exchange jerseys with former college teammates or someone else they have something in common with, such as sharing an agent or trainer.
That’s the case with Bennett and Wilfork, who had the same agent for a while.
“I would trade my Super Bowl jersey with Vince Wilfork,’’ Bennett said this week. “I respect him for the way he has played, and he’s just somebody that I can look up to as a man.’’
Respect, in fact, is at the heart of jersey trading. That word inevitably comes up as a reason to swap jerseys.
Cornerback Richard Sherman this year exchanged jerseys with Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants.
Like a high-school dance, one party could say no. But Sherman said players usually don’t ask one another without understanding the answer will probably be yes.
“Some people come up and ask and some people it’s just kind of a mutual thing where you look at each other and it’s like ‘OK,’ ’’ Sherman said. Beckham, for instance, asked Sherman after the Giants played the Seahawks in Seattle.
Sometimes there’s competition for a hot jersey. Sherman wanted to ask Dallas’ Dez Bryant after a game this season, but Earl Thomas got to the wide receiver first.
During the season, most players hang the jerseys in their lockers at the team’s VMAC training facility in Renton. Many plan to frame them and hang them in their “man cave’’ after the season.
Prominent in the locker of Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is a jersey from Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who shared The Associated Press All-Pro first-team honors with Wagner.
The two also trained together before the 2012 draft and have kept in contact since. “I have a nice, little collection from guys that I appreciate,’’ Wagner said.
Defensive end Cliff Avril says with a smile that he’s been a more popular target for opponents to approach for a jersey since he signed with the Seahawks last year.
“Me personally, it’s either someone I’m actually really friends with or guys that I look up or think they are doing well,’’ said Avril, a former Detroit Lion whose collection includes Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson.
Receiver Jermaine Kearse has jerseys of most former Washington teammates he has played against in the NFL, notably running back Chris Polk of the Eagles and linebacker Mason Foster of Buccaneers.
Players are given one jersey a year. After that, they have to pay but can buy as many jerseys as they want.
As for the Super Bowl, players actually get two jerseys — the one they are given to wear to media day and other media obligations, and then one for game day.
McDaniel says that while he’s happy to trade a regular-season jersey, he’s keeping his Super Bowl jerseys.
“I’m giving one to my mom and one to my dad,” McDaniel said.
Not everyone swaps jerseys.
“Nah,” Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said, “What are you going to do with it, hang it up at your house? That’s stupid. ... I don’t care about you. I don’t want to see you every day. I want to put up my own stuff.’’
Most of the Seahawks, though, consider it a way of remembering their NFL careers.
“Something to look back on,’’ Wagner said.
The No. 1 jersey on Avril’s hit list is easy to locate.
“Marshawn’s,’’ Avril said, pointing across the room to the locker of teammate Marshawn Lynch. “Definitely have to get his before we leave.’’