After sensational year and a Super Bowl title, Richard Sherman is watching closely to make sure he doesn’t take any steps backward.
Amid the celebration of the greatest athletic achievement of his sporting life, Richard Sherman also experienced an unexpected desire for something more.
“You have a feeling of ‘What’s next?’ ’’ Sherman said last spring of the sentiment in the Seattle locker room Feb. 2 after the Seahawks beat Denver 43-8 in the Super Bowl.
“That was the feeling we had all year — that there was more to do, more games to play, more competitors to see. And then there wasn’t. There wasn’t anybody else to see, there wasn’t anything else to do.’’
Now, though, there is.
Sunday marked the first full-pads practice of training camp for the Seahawks, the first time they hit in earnest since the victory against the Broncos.
And afterward, Sherman said it was as if nothing has changed.
He now might be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL after signing a four-year extension in the offseason that could pay him more than $58 million through 2018, with $40 million guaranteed.
And at 26, he might also be something of the old man of the secondary — Byron Maxwell is the only one older, and by just five weeks.
But Sherman insists the “ragged dog’’ attitude that took him from being a fifth-round draft choice in 2011 to centerpiece of a Super Bowl championship team in three years remains.
And just in case he ever needs some reassurance that the hunger and desire remains the same, Sherman plans to check with one of his most trusted sources — himself.
Often overlooked in the noise in which Sherman happily envelops himself is that he is known as one of the team’s most serious watchers of film.
And it’s in those sessions that Sherman says he’ll be the one to judge if the money and all the other attendant trappings that come with being a Super Bowl champion threaten to change the Seahawks or himself.
“You see some guys who they say make business decisions,’’ Sherman said Sunday at practice in reference to players whose games might change in the wake of signing big-money deals. “They don’t dive on the pile, they don’t take that hit, they turn down this play, they turn down that play.
“And I don’t consciously think about any of those things. I think about making as many plays as I can when we are out here and checking the film to make sure I am doing my job correctly. And I think you are seeing that from all the guys (on the Seahawks) who got big contracts. Nothing has changed about their game and nothing has changed about their approach.’’
As proof, he cites those film sessions in which he says, “I still see myself hustling for balls. You still chase balls. You still dive. You still go after them just as you always have.’’
Sherman also says his approach won’t change in the physical nature in which he plays, despite some rumblings that the NFL is telling officials to crack down more on defensive holding as well as illegal contact this coming season.
“I don’t pay any attention to that,’’ he said. “Illegal contact has always been a rule in the league. It doesn’t matter to me.’’
What he says he is paying attention to during this training camp is discipline — keeping his eyes in the proper place, his feet in the proper alignment.
“That’s something that is never perfected,’’ Sherman said. “You always strive for perfection but you never get there.’’
Defensive backs coach Kris Richard says there’s nothing opponents can try on Sherman that they haven’t already attempted.
But something he said opponents might try more of this year is tightening their offensive formations to bring receivers in closer instead of out wide, to take Seattle’s cornerbacks out of man-to-man press coverage.
“So our process and the next step we take from there is making sure we eliminate any and all weaknesses that may or may not be there in his zone coverage or his off coverage,’’ Richard said during the spring.
Richard says another tact would be simply to “try to challenge him more because they want to get after him, see who’s the boss. … I’m sure he would welcome that.’’
He did Sunday.
In a play reminiscent of the tip that clinched the NFC title game against the 49ers, Sherman at one point batted down a Russell Wilson pass on a fade route intended for Arceto Clark.
This time, though, instead of the ball falling into the hands of Malcolm Smith for an interception, it landed just short of safety Jeron Johnson for an incompletion.
“I thought Jeron was going to get that one,’’ Sherman said. “I might just catch the next couple.’’
Bob Condotta // SeattleTimes.com
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