RENTON, Wash. – Richard Sherman can finally steer the conversation back to how he plays on the field.
For most of the last eight months, any time Sherman’s name was mentioned it had little to do with his status as an All-Pro cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks.
Whether it was magazine covers, social media spats or memorable television appearances, Sherman was seemingly everywhere since leaving the field after Seattle’s playoff loss in Atlanta last January.
“I think I’ve handled it fine. It hasn’t changed anything about how I play the game or how I approach the game or how I treat my teammates or how I treat anybody else,” Sherman said. “So I think I’ve treated it pretty well.”
Sherman can again turn the talk back to his play starting Sunday against Carolina. Instead of critiquing his TV appearances or whether Twitter spats with other players are appropriate, Sherman wants everyone to look at how he covers opposing wide receivers and his knack for coming up with interceptions.
That style of play, a mix of brash confidence and unique talent, is what got Sherman all the attention in the first place. It’s why he was invited on TV shows and why Sports Illustrated put him on its cover.
But with attention comes scrutiny and a demand to back up the notoriety. It’s not isolated to Sherman; the entire Seahawks organization is swimming in expectations that have put additional focus on a franchise that in the past has enjoyed its anonymity.
“It comes with it when you’re a talented football team. We’ve done a lot of good things, we haven’t done anything great, you know. That’s the thing that I always think about. It’s the same thing Richard Sherman thinks about, Earl Thomas or Marshawn Lynch,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. “We’ve done a lot of good things but we haven’t done anything great yet. And to do that you have to play one week at a time, one game at a time and one opportunity at a time and if we do that we’ll give ourselves a chance to do something great one day.”
Sherman’s breakout season was all about headlines. He intercepted eight passes and had another 24 passes defensed. He trash-talked Tom Brady, called himself “Optimus Prime” to Calvin Johnson’s “Megatron” before the Seahawks played the Lions, and won an appeal of a four-game suspension for using banned substances.
He was left off the Pro Bowl team but was the top vote-getter at cornerback when it came to selecting the All-Pro team.
And yet most of his attention came in the offseason when he wasn’t baiting quarterbacks into interceptions. He got into a Twitter argument with Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis over who the best cornerback in the NFL is currently; had a confrontational TV appearance on ESPN with Skip Bayless; and had a charity softball game where thousands of fans showed up and Sherman invited the official who made the disputed touchdown call in Seattle’s win over Green Bay last season to serve as an umpire.
But don’t ask his teammates whether Sherman’s actions shock or surprise them. They have Sherman’s back.
“That’s my buddy, man,” fellow cornerback Brandon Browner said. “I love that dude.”
Sherman also sparred verbally with Carolina’s Steve Smith last season during the Seahawks’ win over the Panthers, and that matchup will again be center stage on Sunday when Seattle and Carolina open the season. But neither player had anything disparaging to say about the other leading into the game. Smith said he is looking forward to the challenge and Sherman had a similar refrain.
“I’m always looking forward to having a competitive battle,” Sherman said. “There are a lot of good receivers in this league, and he’s one of the best who’s been doing it a long time. So it’s going to be a great battle.”
DE Cliff Avril (hamstring), and DTs Tony McDaniel (groin) and Brandon Mebane (groin) were all full participants in practice on Thursday. Browner did not practice with a hamstring injury suffered Wednesday. Avril, Mebane and McDaniel were all limited on Wednesday. WR Stephen Williams (head) and WR Sidney Rice (knee) were also full participants in practice.