Bucs’ Baker Mayfield, Lions’ C.J. Gardner-Johnson trade barbs before playoff game

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions don’t have much of a storied rivalry, thanks in large part to their relative lack of success over the years. But with the two facing off Sunday with a spot in the NFC Championship Game on the line, the trash talk has already started from two likely sources. 

Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson started things off by taking a veiled swipe at Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield while complementing the team’s wide receivers before the Lions faced the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card round last week.

“This [Rams wide receiver] group probably is one of the better groups we done faced all year, besides that Tampa group,” Gardner-Johnson said then, per the Detroit Free-Press. “If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that’s a great group. [Mike] Evans, [Chris] Godwin, [Russell] Gage, that’s a great group. I played against them for real.”

Mayfield was asked about those comments Wednesday, two days after he led Tampa Bay to a win over the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles by completing 22 of 36 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns.

“I don’t think he’s really watched film, because he mentioned Russell Gage,” Mayfield said. “We love Russell, but Russell hasn’t played a snap all year for us. He must have been going off of preseason stuff.”

Gage has indeed missed the entire 2023 season after suffering a torn patellar tendon in training camp. Mayfield did go on to compliment Gardner-Johnson, noting he missed the regular-season matchup between the teams — a 20-6 Detroit win in Week 6 — due to an injury of his own.

“He didn’t play in our first game, so I’m excited to see him,” Mayfield said. “I think he’s a really good player. He has been for a while. He’s been an impactful guy on every team he’s been on.

“But he’s gotta do a little bit more film study.”

Gardner-Johnson hit back at Mayfield in a since-deleted post on X, formerly Twitter.

“I do watch film, ask the QB before u my guy!!” Gardner-Johnson wrote. “iPad situation number 2 loading…”

Gardner-Johnson was referring to an incident during a 2021 Buccaneers-Saints game when he was with New Orleans and recorded an interception against then-Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. Watching the play back caused Brady to throw and destroy a film study tablet on the Buccaneers’ sideline, which was captured by TV cameras and gleefully celebrated by Gardner-Johnson at the time.

Mayfield has exceeded expectations as Brady’s successor in Tampa Bay after the latter retired “for good” following the 2022 season. With Mayfield under center, the Buccaneers went 9-8, won their third straight NFC South title and won a playoff game for the first time since the end of the 2021-22 season. However, they are 6.5-point betting underdogs against the Lions in Detroit in Sunday’s game.

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