How tough was Richard Sherman

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Released All-Pro cornerback had tumultuous career in Seattle, but continually made sacrifices for the good of his teammates

The way Richard Sherman’s final years unfolded for the Seattle Seahawks repeatedly raised the issue whether the three time All-Pro cornerback was putting himself ahead of the team, or otherwise not helping the mission of the group. Sherman’s relationship with the squad, or at least factions of the whole, the staff, the offense, whatever, became the blockbuster rift that led 2017’s offseason, remember. Sherman got in Seattle coaches’ faces twice on the sideline, and argued with teammates over coverages. Sherman reportedly refused a pay cut to free more space to reinvest in the roster.

Or maybe these were issues all along. Barking at Tom Brady. Feuding with Skip Bayless. Sherman continually put himself in the media at the expense of the organization’s focus, or so folks said, and perhaps only the winning had made it tolerable. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and the failures to meet a title with more titles make those same folks glamourize or exaggerate or even read deeper into issues that are long gone. Either way, Richard Sherman is gone now, as the Seahawks reportedly released him Friday, making at last some real divide between the former fifth round pick and his championship teammates.

Anyway, for the folks, here are three examples of Sherman putting the team ahead of himself:

3. Played injured all 2017

Sherman’s most recent season ended November 9 on Thursday Night Football when he ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Arizona Cardinals. But Sherman indicated afterward he had hurt the tendon much earlier, probably in the preseason, and had been playing through the pain all along. Indeed, Sherman was listed on the injury report with various ailments all year, including the Achilles, even though he never missed a snap until the fateful down against the Cardinals.

I heard somebody on the radio say the listings were most likely Pete Carroll’s sly way of teasing the league office for its investigation into leaving Sherman off the medical sheet during 2016 when he suffered a slight MCL tear. Well it turns out Carroll was just filling due diligence because Sherman was really injured. The question remains, did playing through the strain put extra pressure on Sherman’s body causing the final tear? Sherman said after the year he plans to have a second surgery, on bone spurs in his other Achilles tendon, after the first one heals. So was it the other leg that Sherman hurt? Or was he covering wideouts on two bum heels the whole time?

2. Hid 2016 knee sprain

Speaking of the MCL problem, we determined last offseason that Sherman twisted his knee on Monday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills, on a run block by Walt Powell.

That was in week 9. He came back after one play. That means Sherman, even before missing the final seven contests of 2017, had been playing on one somewhat serious injury or another without missing a start for the previous 18 games (plus two playoff games!).

Sherman critiqued the scheduling pattern of Thursday night football games, but he never complained about taking the field injured for the sake of his squad. Indeed it was Carroll who later hinted about the suffering Sherman had been in during the latter part of the season. What’s most remarkable of all was how Sherman’s performance never seemed to diminish while playing through these issues. He continued to make critical plays and preserve the illusion he was at top form, masked his vulnerability, allowing the team to utilize its advantage of forcing opponents to mostly shut down half the field.

1. 2014 NFC Championship Game vs Green Bay Packers

Sherman played the fourth quarter of the conference title game with one arm after getting his left elbow stuck between a Kam Chancellor tackle and James Starks’s shoulder, with Sherman’s ligament taking the place of the atoms annihilated by the usual Kam Chancellor tackle. I can still remember Sherman carrying that thing like a chicken wing, as if in an invisible sling, head up the outside receiver breathing sheer determination into steam as Seattle forced a three and out—then having to run out and do it again on the next play because Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception. Sherman and the defense held again, held the Packers at three points til then in the half to keep the lead to 12 and keep the chance of the miracle finish. And then, on the final drive when Aaron Rodgers marshaled another field goal to send the game to overtime, there’s Sherman making a one-armed tackle on Jordy Nelson from the slot on third down.

Watch from 2:15 in that video: First you can see Sherman favoring that elbow as he tries to force contain on Rodgers’ late scramble, then follows through with the painful tackle the following highlight before writhing on the ground. That, my dudes, is the agony of victory.

Keep in mind it was Sherman’s interception in the corner of the end zone that kept Green Bay points off the board in the Packers’ first drive of that game, and then Sherman and the defense held for field goals on three more drives that half that began inside Seahawks territory to keep the score at a reasonable 16-0 at the break. Earl Thomas played through a separated shoulder that afternoon as well, to help put Seattle into its second straight Super Bowl, in which Chancellor also played hurt.

These sacrifices of the body and will are what went through Sherman’s mind when at the end of that game he made the famously tormented face after the Seahawks lost on the goal line. (I won’t bother to post it.) The guy who’d rather fold up his arm like a sling and throw it into game saving plays for the sake of those other fellows, who would put himself at risk as an example for the supreme cause of another championship.

And don’t forget all the guidance, the mentorship and leadership Sherman reputedly offered his teammates throughout the seasons, in camps and practice as he grew from upstart into veteran status. The ways in which he embodied Carroll’s mentality of competition, matching his ferocity on the field with extensive film and technique work off the gridiron.

Richard Sherman may not be able to swallow the prospect of coming back to Seattle for less money, in which case his days in green and blue will be over. Although Sherman himself has reportedly pointed out the possibility of return, suggesting feelings may not be so raw or rifts not so wide as speculated. So we shall see where it goes.

Plenty pro athletes play hurt and make significant sacrifices with their bodies. This evidence may not prove Sherman entirely exceptional in that way, but it does seem to support his commitment to his teammates and their united goals. Whatever happens or happened, if Sherman really is gone for good, don’t let folks say Sherman put less than everything on the field on behalf of the Seahawks, until he physically couldn’t go anymore.

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