The outspoken cornerback’s reputation took a hit last year after a turbulent season. But with a possible contract extension dangling out there, there’s a good chance the problems stay in the past.
Direct but accommodating. Entertaining but affable. Competitive but congratulatory.
This is how one might describe Richard Sherman of late. This is how the man once perceived as a malcontent has publicly conducted himself over the past couple of months.
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this Sherman — who is coming off the most tumultuous season of his career. And if I had to guess, it’s going to be the Sherman we see for most of the season.
Monday, the Seahawks’ cornerback addressed the media for the first time since training camp began. He thoughtfully answered questions about rookie DB Shaquill Griffin, the punch defensive lineman Frank Clark threw last week and the extension safety Kam Chancellor signed, among other topics.
By the looks of things, Sherman has hit the reset button on the adversarial relationship he had with reporters last year. And if there was a contentious relationship he had with teammates, he appears to have hit the reset button on that, too.
Throughout camp, Sherman has been quick to laud fellow Seahawks for making standout plays. Sometimes he’ll sprint out to the field in a show of enthusiasm; sometimes he’ll praise them more mildly on the sideline.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be noteworthy considering Richard is a four-time Pro Bowler expected to be a leader on this football team. But given how things ended last year — when Sherman was openly questioning the coaching staff and ostensibly seeking a trade — the change of attitude is worth pointing out.
Will it last? It’s way too early to tell. But the smart money is on yes. Because while Sherman is a lot of things — he isn’t dumb.
When Chancellor signed his three-year, $36 million extension last week, it did more than just cement his status in Seattle through 2020. It also set a precedent for other Seahawk stars to earn big paydays the year before their contracts are up.
Well, Sherman’s four-year, $56 million deal expires after the 2018 season, meaning if he wants to sign one more lucrative contract, this is the year to make an impression on and off the field. And through two relatively insignificant months, he appears to be doing that.
Monday, Griffin gushed over the way Sherman has been helping him throughout camp so far. Whether it’s learning technique or better understanding down-and-distance situations, Shaquill has extolled the manner in which No. 25 has tutored him.
“I can’t say thank you enough for taking me under his wing,” Griffin said. “It’s a blessing.”
Sure, anyone following this football team knows Sherman has been consistent in mentoring younger cornerbacks. But one of the big questions coming into this season was how engaged Sherman would be compared to that of seasons past.
Would he simply go through the motions for a team he may be tired of playing for? Or would he remain the relentless competitor that takes every snap personally?
Again, it’s only August, when even the testiest of players are teeming with optimism. For now, though, Sherman seems intent on starting fresh this season.
Not that he won’t speak his mind when he sees fit.
Last week, Richard gave an interview with USA Today in which he discussed Colin Kaepernick remaining unsigned. He cited several quarterbacks — from Ryan Mallett to Jared Goff to Blake Bortles — that he felt were inferior to Kaepernick, saying owners were blackballing him.
“It’s not about football or color,” Sherman said. “It’s about, ‘Boy, stay in your place.’ ”
That’s the Sherman people grew accustomed to before the end of last season. A man that was outspoken as he was hospitable — a man that would call out his opponents but talk up his teammates.
I think that’s the Sherman we’ll see this year. I think the hit his reputation took last season bothered him. I think he’s going to do whatever is necessary to prove that everyone who labeled him a self-centered disruption was wrong about him. Which will be good for the Seahawks.
Who knows how Sherman really feels inside? He might still be angry. He might still feel resentment. The front he’s been putting on lately may very well be Academy Award worthy.
But he’s wise enough to know that a season similar to last year could damage his image beyond repair. Just like he knows that a stellar season will heal that image, give his team a chance to get back to the Super Bowl, and, yes, make him a very wealthy man.
All that said, Sherman is still one of the most unpredictable players in the game. Guessing that he’ll be one way almost guarantees that he’ll be another. But I’m going to give it a shot either way.
This season, Sherman is going to be a problem for wide receivers. He won’t be a problem for the Seahawks.