Panthers receiver Philly Brown spent the better part of 10 minutes Sunday dodging questions about Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, who said after Super Bowl 50 he had purposely grabbed Brown’s facemask during Denver’s 24-10 win in February.
However, Brown couldn’t resist taking a swipe at retired quarterback Peyton Manning when asked about the likelihood that the future Hall of Famer would be at Thursday’s game in Denver.
“To hand the ball off?” Brown said.
The Broncos won the Super Bowl despite a pedestrian night from Manning (13-of-23 for 141 yards, no touchdowns, one interception) in the final game of his 17-year career.
The Panthers’ top-ranked scoring offense was stifled by the league’s top-ranked defense, but not because of anything Brown did. Brown led the Panthers with four catches and 80 yards before leaving the game with a concussion during the third quarter.
His head slammed into the turf as he came down with a 42-yard reception, the second-longest play of the game by either team.
It was a second-quarter play involving Brown and Talib that created a stir after the game and into the offseason though.
Brown caught a short pass from Cam Newton and ran to the Broncos’ 2 before Talib pulled him down by his facemask and was called for it. The penalty moved the ball to the 1, and the Panthers scored their only touchdown on a Jonathan Stewart rush on the next play.
It was the second personal foul on Talib, who’d been called for taunting during the first quarter.
After the game Talib told reporters he had tried to grab Brown by the facemask.
“One I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him,” Talib said. “It’s probably going to be a fine, but hey, we’re world champs.”
The NFL fined Talib $26,044 for the two fouls.
Brown said he was surprised to hear Talib admit to trying to yank him down by his facemask.
“I thought it was fake for a minute. Yeah, I was shocked,” Brown said Sunday. “It’s cool, though. I’m 100 percent. I’m ready. We’re ready. It’ll be fun.”
It wasn’t a fun offseason for Talib, who sustained a gunshot wound in his right leg after reportedly accidentally shooting himself. There also have been reports that the league might discipline him for the incident, as well as an ESPN report Saturday that the Broncos tried to trade him.
Denver general manager John Elway denied the report, and the Broncos expect Talib to play in Thursday’s Super Bowl rematch.
“Is he playing? I’m happy for him,” Brown said. “Remember I said that on Twitter? I’m happy for him. I want him to play.”
More recently, Brown posted a tweet Saturday that appeared to be directed at Talib.
“All this talk I can’t wait till Thursday,” Brown tweeted. “Don’t think I forgot!!”
Brown claims it was about forgetting his girlfriend’s birthday -- a few months ago. Regardless, it was clear Sunday that he is ready to move on, but has not forgotten about Talib.
“Aqib Talib don’t run my life. I don’t walk around thinking about him 24/7,” he said. “That’s not what I’m thinking about right now. I’m more focused on getting the victory.”
Brown referred to his catch and Talib’s personal foul as a “positive play,” pointing out it resulted in a first down and led to a touchdown.
Panthers wideout Ted Ginn was in the next locker stall while Brown was asked repeatedly about Talib.
“The guy was playing football, made a play,” Ginn said. “At the end of the day it wasn’t a play that we all wanted. He got called for the penalty and it’s over with.”
Brown has a better relationship with one of the Broncos’ other defensive backs. He and Denver nickel back Bradley Roby were roommates at Ohio State for three years.
“He was a horrible roommate, good friend. He was the dirty roommate. Leaving trash and I got to clean it up like I was the maid,” Brown said. “That’ll be fun, man -- two competitive people going at it.”
While Brown and Roby will catch up after the game, don’t expect Brown and Talib to exchange pleasantries.
Asked if Talib had called or texted him to apologize, Brown laughed and said: “I will block him. He will never have my number.”