SANTA CLARA -- Some players do it for sentimental reasons, others out of admiration. It occasionally even can be a goodwill gesture.
But no matter the reason, jersey swaps have become a postgame ritual that’s almost like a Christmas gift exchange for NFL players.
Mike McGlinchey’s most recent jersey acquisition was made in Week 15, when he traded with his cousin, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The second-year 49ers offensive tackle already has started a jersey collection that he says eventually will be framed and hung once he’s settled somewhere.
“I try to do it only for the special occasions, like guys that I’ve played with or guys like my cousin, Matt, because he is family,” McGlinchey said. “But I’ve done it to my Notre Dame teammates, a high school teammate, stuff like that.
“I was lucky enough to play with five guys that are at the top of the game right now, and we all did it together. How cool it is now we are kind of at the top of the league, too? It’s a testament to what we had back then. That’s why I trade. It's for those type of moments.”
After nine seasons in the league, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman has built a large collection, with 50 to 60 jerseys. Most of the time, he says the idea to exchange is brought up as players converge at midfield after the game clock has wound down. At least once, it was agreed to as the game was being played.
"This year, the only planned one I had was with [Marlon] Humphrey from Baltimore,” Sherman said. “He had asked me earlier in the season. That was the only one I had planned. [Jarvis] Landry asked me during the game.”
Sherman has been asked to trade jerseys with other marquee players, but other times, it has been by someone with whom he might have limited knowledge. Regardless, he never has turned down a request for his jersey, unless it already was promised to another player. Sherman even traded jerseys with Russell Wilson in Week 10, despite his 2018 assertion that he doesn't have a relationship with his former Seattle Seahawks teammate.
Sherman’s extensive collection is partially framed and hanging in his home, but because of the sheer number of jerseys, he hasn't been able to keep up with displaying them all. He added that finding a way to half-frame them eventually will be necessary.
Ronald Blair’s first NFL jersey exchange was his most memorable. The 49ers defensive end believes the $500 that's automatically deducted from the player's paycheck for a traded jersey is nothing compared to the respect that’s given through each exchange.
“I know my first exchange was after a game that I played in the preseason against the Jets,” Blair said. “It was one of my college roommates. We ended up playing against each other. He’s a safety, Doug Middleton. Ended up getting his jersey for the first time. It was huge.
"This is the NFL. This is my college roommate, and we’re playing against each other. This is such a great symbolic moment that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life.
49ers defensive end DeForest Buckner has swapped jerseys with players with whom he has trained, as well as former Oregon Ducks teammates. Once he has his mancave, jerseys acquired from Michael Bennett, Kiko Alonso and Jonathan Stewart will be on display.
“Sometimes, it just happens,” Buckner said. “Then you get that money out your check. It’s like five hundred, but it’s worth it making those memories.”
One 49ers player who's waiting for that moment when someone runs up and asks to exchange jerseys might surprise some. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has planned trades with friends, but he still hasn't been asked to swap in a spontaneous postgame moment.
“Not yet," Garoppolo said with a chuckle. “Maybe it will come, though. Yeah, maybe.”