NEWARK, N.J. — Richard Sherman, the raging narcissist, was a no-show.
Richard Sherman, the self-proclaimed nerd, made an appearance instead.
And for an hour that disappointed only if you judged Sherman based solely on a 20-second postgame diatribe, the Seahawks’ gabby All-Pro cornerback turned Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day into any ol’ day in his world.
The stage was grand, a podium raised high enough for him to see over the hundreds of media members hoping he’d say something inflammatory again. But it felt like a normal chat with Sherman at his locker. He was engaging and eloquent. He gave thoughtful answers to every question, even the dumb ones. If Richard being Richard is how people explain his passionate, unsportsmanlike conduct after the NFC Championship Game, then what was Tuesday’s performance?
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Richard being Richard, too.
Richard being the best of Richard.
“I think I let some people down,” Sherman told the media near the end of the wildest interview of his career. “I didn’t go controversial. I don’t play to anybody else’s drum. I’m not anybody’s puppet. You’re not going to just get controversial things. I’m going to be myself every time — good, bad or indifferent — and it’s not always going to be entertaining.
“Sometimes, I’m going to be intellectual. Sometimes, I’m going to use words that people have to look up in the dictionary. I’m a pragmatist. Some people might not understand that part about me.”
On the field, Sherman is a shutdown cornerback, complete with the ego and bravado required to handle a high-pressure job. Off the field, he’s one of the most well-rounded human beings in the NFL. In the aftermath of his verbal evisceration of San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree 10 days ago, Sherman has repaired his image more by being forthright and open than offering a thorough apology.
His contrition is limited to overshadowing his teammates’ performance. That’s it. Sherman probably named every player on the team Tuesday to make sure the Seahawks’ brand received its due.
“I really think the cameras should go to my teammates,” he said.
He’s not sorry about the taunting, about the choke gesture, or about the loud interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews that somehow turned into a societal issue. He only regrets the sideshow, and then he attempts to show you who he really is.
Richard being Richard got him into this mess. And Richard being Richard is winning over some of his critics.
“To be honest with you, I think that’s why everybody’s freaking out about this whole thing, because athletes don’t normally do that,” Andrews said during an interview Tuesday. “They’re so cliché. We don’t ever see that side of them. We never see Peyton (Manning) get emotional like that. We never see Eli (Manning) get emotional like that.
“I loved it. I thought it was amazing. He’s one of my favorite players. If I could come back and be a player, I would be somebody like him. And that’s the interview we all want. It was awesome.”
Sherman is perhaps the only athlete in sports right now who could talk his way into international controversy and then, instead of recoiling at the criticism, keep talking until he changed the story.
And how will he react now that he’s destroying the silly notion that he’s a villain? By continuing to talk.
Eventually, Sherman will talk himself into trouble again. But his mouth will keep moving. You don’t have to like him, but you will hear him. And maybe, if you listen closely enough, you’ll understand him.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” Sherman said. “I don’t have anything in my past.”
With his dreads flowing out of his blue Seahawks cap, Sherman leaned forward to listen to every question he was asked. He detailed, once again, how much he idolizes Muhammad Ali, who was known for his legendary mouth. When asked to give a nickname for Sunday’s showdown with the Denver Broncos, Sherman laughed and said, “How about the Fight in the Big Lights?”
Sherman brought his own camera to record the circus. He sang a duet with R&B singer Michelle Williams, formerly of Destiny’s Child, and she gave him an Xbox One because he knew the words. He hugged a woman wearing his jersey and answered questions from kids about school. When asked to respond to Denver cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s claim that Sherman isn’t one of the NFL’s top five corners, Sherman simply laughed.
He had clever answers for most everything, except for a question about pop star Justin Bieber, who was charged with drunken driving last week. He chuckled at the question and declined to comment.
Sherman even gave a thoughtful response to the oddest question of the day, which was about preventing women from becoming strippers.
“I’ve never gone to a strip club and thrown money, so I couldn’t tell you,” Sherman said. “I guess, uh, trying to understand that there are other avenues and other ways you can make money, that women can do anything they want in this world. You can go out there and be a CEO of a company. The same can be said for kids in the inner city: The ceiling is limitless if you don’t limit yourself to those possibilities and those circumstances.”
If anyone understands how to shun limitations, it’s Sherman. He has an All-American tale, growing up in impoverished Compton, Calif., earning a football scholarship at Stanford, getting a college degree and becoming one of the best in his profession.
Richard being Richard put him in a negative light 10 days ago.
Richard being the best of Richard shimmered in the limelight Tuesday.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277
On Twitter @JerryBrewer