On the surface, it seems both amusing and counterintuitive. Rattling off his biggest areas for improvement this year, Richard Sherman listed, matter-of-factly, “Not getting bored in ballgames.”
Sherman is one of the most animated, in-your-face players in the NFL. Boredom does not appear to be in his DNA. But for the Madden cover model, it can be maddening when teams choose, repeatedly, to take their chances elsewhere.
It’s the ultimate sign of respect, of course, but a competitor craves action. Sherman wants to be tried, even by receivers he might privately — or publicly — deem sorry.
“Not getting the ball gets you pretty bored,’’ Sherman said Monday.
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“Stay focused,’’ he replied. “Understand the ball’s coming at any time, and treat it like that. Treat it like the ball’s coming to your guy at any time. Which is tough when you go four quarters without a ball, and then four more quarters. But that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Those respites might be less frequent Thursday when the Seahawks open the season against one of the NFL’s most prolific quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers. For those who feared Sherman, after an offseason of burgeoning fame and fortune, might face the new year with any diminishment of passion or preparation, those concerns appear to be completely unfounded.
Coach Pete Carroll said Sherman’s camp has been the best of his pro career, which is heading into its fourth season.
“He’s so disciplined about what he’s been doing,’’ Carroll said. “His attitude has been perfect. He hasn’t missed a minute of practice. He’s done everything, taken all the reps, done everything we’ve asked him to do. I think he’s been probably his most focused.”
And that’s exactly what Sherman promised back in May, when he signed a four-year contract extension, reported to be worth $40 million in guaranteed money. He assured one and all that he would remain as hungry and motivated as ever, likening himself to a ragged street dog suddenly put in a brand new house with steak and lobster every night.
“He’s still the ragged dog you got off the street,’’ he said.
Sherman had a whirlwind offseason, complete with commercial shoots, television appearances, and even a mention from President Obama during his speech at the Correspondents’ Dinner. But then he was ready to get back in ragged-dog mode. He’s been transformed into that state, he said, by the return to Renton.
“This is like our sanctuary,’’ he said. “When you walk into this building, everything kind of comes into place. When you step in here, it allows you to free your mind of all the distractions and everything off the field, and really focus on your craft. Really focus on getting better at the things you need to get better at.”
Sherman mentioned discipline and patience as aspects of his game open for improvement. Staving off boredom, as mentioned, was another, though the notion surprised defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“He hasn’t brought that one up to me,’’ he said. “That’s one for you guys.”
Echoing Carroll, Quinn said Sherman’s focus on technical aspects of his game has been the best of his career. He said Sherman displays perfect fundamentals play after play, regardless of whether the offense is attacking him.
“The one time you say, ‘Ah, I’m just going to take a shot here, do my own deal,’ usually that’s when the bad one happens,’’ Quinn said. “He’s had real discipline this training camp.”
Sherman normally attends his press briefings wearing house shoes, but instead of Uggs, he was donning sneakers Monday, having come straight from walk-throughs.
“The money’s changed me,’’ he joked with a hearty laugh.
That’s belied by the common sight of Sherman working patiently with younger, more experienced members — or would-be members — of the Legion of Boom throughout camp.
“You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and you don’t want to have any weak links,’’ he said. “You give everybody all the information you have, and hopefully they give you all the information they have, so there’s no secrets. You want guys to be as good as they can possibly be.”
Thursday, the Seahawks will begin to find out if they’re good enough again to charge toward another Super Bowl. Meanwhile, their most effervescent player will continue to find sanctuary in the rituals of preparation for that task.
“Whenever you’re a true ballplayer, and you really love what you do, coming to the field and being in the building and being around your teammates is like being at home,’’ he said. “It’s really like being where you feel you belong. It’s like a fish being dropped in the water. You feel like you’re breathing again.”