JuJu Smith-Schuster wasn’t about to let James Bradberry get over his crucial holding penalty in the Super Bowl, and some of Bradberry’s teammates weren’t about to let the Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver get away with it.
Smith-Schuster’s Valentine’s Day-themed taunt of Bradberry on Tuesday sparked a Twitter battle with members of the Philadelphia Eagles that quickly drew in Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The multisided exchange of pointed remarks eventually appeared to elicit a reaction from the newly crowned Super Bowl MVP, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
It all started with a tweet from Smith-Schuster in which he wrote, “Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody,” with a heart emoji. That would have seemed like a thoroughly well-meaning gesture if it weren’t for the fact that the wide receiver’s comment accompanied an image of Bradberry with the words: “I’ll hold you when it matters most.”
That was an unmistakable reference to the flag Bradberry drew while covering Smith-Schuster on a third-down play with less than two minutes left. The penalty gave the Chiefs, who had thrown an incomplete pass on the play, a first down that allowed them to drain the clock before bringing on kicker Harrison Butker to boot what became a championship-winning field goal.
While the sequence elated Kansas City fans, many others who had been riveted by the contest’s back-and-forth action on the game’s biggest stage were disappointed the penalty effectively iced the game and prevented Philadelphia from having any realistic chance to mount a last-minute rally.
Despite a postgame admission by Bradberry, a seventh-year veteran, that officials made a correct call on the play — “I was hoping they would let it slide,” he told reporters in the Eagles’ locker room — arguments online over whether it made sense to throw a flag in that situation raged two days later.
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Still seemingly stung Tuesday by the Super Bowl loss, Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown offered downbeat remarks to reporters at the Eagles’ facility. Several hours later, Brown responded to the taunt of Bradberry by asserting that Smith-Schuster was indebted to Mahomes for a solid 2022 season — the wide receiver’s first with the Chiefs after five in Pittsburgh, during which he got off to a hot start for the Steelers before his numbers began to drop.
Brown also took a shot at Smith-Schuster by referring derisively to the latter’s affinity for TikTok, which has included sharing videos of himself dancing on opposing teams’ logos.
“First off congratulations. Y’all deserve it. This is lame,” Brown wrote while quote-tweeting Smith-Schuster’s post. “You was on the way out the league before mahomes resurrected your career on your 1 year deal Tik-Tok boy. He admitted that he grabbed you but don’t act like your like that or ever was. But congratulations again!”
“Glad you were finally able to get all that off your chest after all these years,” Smith-Schuster replied. “Good game bro.”
Philadelphia cornerback Darius Slay, meanwhile, chided Smith-Schuster for going too far with his taunt, which Slay felt was “weak” and “lame.” As with Brown, Slay also tipped his cap to the wide receiver and his squad for winning the game.
For his part, Smith-Schuster called “cap” (a lie) on a claim by Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson that the wide receiver “ran from me when I check[ed] him” in the Super Bowl. Gardner-Johnson went on to suggest that a big hit he laid on Kansas City running back Isaiah Pacheco amounted to collateral damage from Smith-Schuster’s woofing.
“I told you in the game to stop all that talkin because we were gonna come back and win that game,” Smith-Schuster tweeted at Gardner-Johnson. “Now help me decide which finger I need to get sized for this ring.”
Bradberry’s only tweet amid all this was a simple “ALL-PRO,” which served as a reminder that while he may have incurred an unfortunate flag Sunday, his strong play over the regular season merited second-team all-pro honors.
Hill, who spent six highly productive seasons with the Chiefs before being traded to Miami last year, was happy to chime in from the sidelines. After initially expressing amusement, Hill then appeared to applaud Brown’s response. When Smith-Schuster tweeted his “get all that off your chest” reply to Brown, Hill laughed at the thought of the Kansas City receiver suddenly playing “victim” after having fired the first salvo.
Approximately an hour and a half later, Mahomes tweeted: “That man must just be bored.”
It was not completely clear to whom the Kansas City star was referring, but given all the attention generated by the trash talk above, most observers took it to be one of the participants, possibly Brown.
Other NFL figures took an indirect approach to their reactions, although it was easier to discern the source of their concerns.
“Damm social media has allowed players social media skills be better than their football skills!” Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Micah Parsons tweeted Tuesday.
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“Crazy how social media has changed the game,” opined former pass-rushing great Shawne Merriman, “people feel so comfortable saying whatever and going out in public after lol.”
For now, with the NFL entering its long offseason, social media platforms provide virtual venues for players to trade insults. At some point this fall, though — assuming Smith-Schuster re-signs with Kansas City — he will come face-to-face with some of the Eagles players he antagonized. The Chiefs are slated to host Philadelphia in the 2023 season.