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How Eli Apple became the laughing stock of the NFL

Eli Apple is now a meme.

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The only thing getting burned more than Eli Apple in the Super Bowl is Eli Apple after the Super Bowl. The outspoken Bengals corner has become a lightning rod for jokes and criticism, and he’s getting dragged all over the internet.

It’s okay if you’re confused as to why. We’ve seen corners burned before, lord knows Cooper Kupp has left dozens in his wake this season. So why has Apple suddenly become the league’s biggest punchline? It all comes down to his past and his attitude.

Apple has been known as one of the league’s biggest trash talkers since he was drafted in 2016. From the second he arrived in the NFL it became clear he knew how to get under the skin of wide receivers, and even his own teammates. Apple was a quick riser during the pre-draft process, where he lifted his stock from a mid-late first round pick to a top-10 prospect selected by the Giants — and the hype seemed to carry into the NFL. From the second he arrived in New York, Apple had an ego. That alone is fine, plenty of the best in football history have an ego, but often it felt as if Apple’s crossed into the unhealthy.

In 2017 he had a confrontation with the coaching staff that led to Apple being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Landon Collins, a 2016 All-Pro and the leader of the secondary at the time, said Apple was a “cancer,” a statement he later apologized for — but the damage was already done. A coaching change temporarily saved Apple’s spot, but a year later he was traded to the Saints, just two years after being take in the top-10.

Unbeknownst to most fans, Apple was trash talking all the time. There wasn’t a receiver in the NFL who didn’t know about his exploits of taking a big game at the line of scrimmage — but that rarely translated to elite play. It was fairly simple: Apple’s game didn’t back up his mouth, but that didn’t stop him talking.

This was more or less a known quantity in the league, but boiled over and became public during the 2021 playoffs. Ensuring any lasting love was lost, Apple said he hated fans of the Saints and Giants, the two former teams he had the longest tenures with. The group of people now wanting to see Apple fail swelled, and this was only the beginning.

Now with the Bengals, Apple decided to mock Mecole Hardman and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs following Cincinnati’s surprise win.

Apple would also go on to retweet anyone who talked trash about the Chiefs, or mocked their receivers. He also appeared to take credit for the entire defensive unit having success, when he was a very small cog in the relative machine.

So, now you have a scenario where a guy who talks much bigger than his performance was relishing in beating the Chiefs. That’s absolutely his prerogative, but he best be ready to face the same scrutiny when he messed up ... and he did.

Apple was horrific in the Super Bowl. The defense kept him away from covering Cooper Kupp as much as possible, but when Apple found himself in coverage against the Rams No. 1, things went bad. Apple gave up both of Kupp’s touchdowns, including the game-sealing reception in the fourth quarter.

So now, it was time for the Chiefs’ receivers to exact their revenge — and they went all in.

This basically gave the green light to everyone in the NFL to exact their revenge and start making fun of Eli Apple. The pile on began, with players, Chiefs fans, Saints fans, Giants fans — hell, everyone, to unleash years of frustration and make sure the world knew that Apple was a huge part in the Bengals losing the Super Bowl.

Ravens receivers Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman had thoughts.

Lamar Jackson jumped on board too.

Then on Wednesday, after two days of largely being silent and licking his wounds, Apple responded.

“Yall ReAwoke A Fire In Me That Will Only Make Me Stronger and Im Beyond Excited To Unleash That Demon Again to Exponential Levels On Any Opp That Lines Up Across From Me Next Season”

So now we’re going to see exponential levels of demonic play, whatever that really means — but it’s definitely going to be something to watch next season. One of the NFL’s most hated players is fed up with the jokes, and there’s going to be so much beef to come from it.