When I found out I'd have a few minutes to chat on the phone with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, I naturally thought about the possibilities of what we could discuss. The possibilities, naturally, are virtually endless with him.
I could have asked him to talk trash about other cornerbacks in the league, and I am sure he would have obliged. Same with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, which he has done plenty of recently. Certainly, asking Sherman about the Seahawks this season coming off a disappointing loss in the playoffs made sense.
But in my limited time with him, I went a slightly different direction. With Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson retiring, two well-spoken ambassadors of the league are gone from the active cycle. These days, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are more quiet, more polished and maybe more politically correct in what they say. Aaron Rodgers is a full-fledged celebrity known to use his biting wit in spots, but he picks those spots more carefully.
Is it possible then that Sherman, a non-quarterback, is the NFL's unofficial spokesman now? So that's what I asked him. He didn't say no, he wasn't.
"Honestly, I don’t even think about it ... but maybe," Sherman said last night while promoting BodyArmor, a natural sports drink. "I just really try to be honest with my opinion when I am asked a question. I sometimes feel like guys are more afraid to be criticized. They try their best to avoid elongated conversations or interviews or speaking about any issues because it hurts them, hurts their brand so to speak.
"Everybody is a critic. Everybody has an opinion. If you’re not with the majority, you’re criticized. I am one of the few guys who, really, couldn’t care less about being a certain way. You are going to criticize me anyway, so I don’t care. I am going to speak up, especially now when it comes to things that affect players and affect players in a negative way."
So Sherman does the speaking for a lot of those players, a group that will be almost 3,000 strong as we get into the offseason and rosters balloon up to 90 men apiece. He has taken plenty of bullets in the past, no doubt, but he's not just a human shield either. It's clear that Sherman has these strong opinions on everything from player safety to rule changes to the future of the game because he's educated himself on the topics that we in the media discuss so often.
"I try my best to educate myself and educate other players on issues," Sherman said. "If I am not educated on a topic, and I don’t have the right information, then I probably won’t speak on it. I won’t go into a discussion where I don’t have the right ammo, or don’t know completely what I am talking about."
Doesn't this sound like a future elected leader in the league to you? Could he be Goodell? Could he do DeMaurice Smith's job one day? Well, first on the commissioner's job — it's not that Sherman doesn't think he could do what Goodell does, and do it well. It's that he knows how that position is selected, and that likely eliminates him from actually getting it.
"I mean, obviously, I doubt the owners would ever want me as commissioner," he said. "Clearly, I would be a player-centric commissioner. That’s what this league is made from: great players. I would be more reasonable about things, such as rules and regulations in our league, and that’s not necessarily what they’re [the owners] for."
Then what about being the head of the union in, say, a decade if Smith ever were to step down.
"Potentially. It depends on the landscape of the league," Sherman said, pausing. "But there’s definitely potential for it. Time will tell, but who knows?"
Until then, Sherman is happy to be the unofficial mouth of the league — the bottomless well and the eternal flame, if you will — for the players. He says what they're (often) thinking it. Do guys thank him later for that behind closed doors and in private when media are not around?
"Sometimes," he laughs, "sometimes they do."
Sherman often is paid for his opinions, too, but he prides himself in getting educated about what he's getting behind, and that includes BodyArmor. Growing up in Compton, Sherman admits that it was hard to be a very healthy person, noting that "you couldn’t go to the liquor store to get coconut water," for instance.
Solid point. But now that he has the means, as well as a taxing job that breaks down his body much of the time he's in action, Sherman was happy to endorse a product that he feels helps him recover properly. BodyArmor is launching a campaign Wednesday asking consumers to “ditch artificial ingredients” and switch to its product, which is bills as a "natural sports drink."
Said Sherman, "In this day and age, you’re learning the effect of things that go into your body. How it impacts the liver and affects the body’s growth and how it heals. So guys are currently more educated about what they’re putting into their bodies. You want the most natural stuff available. That’s what attracted me to BodyArmor — they use all natural ingredients."
He also believes that the focus on concussions, player safety and health and players asking more questions amongst themselves and to health professionals has helped them understand what is good for them and what might not work as well. Sherman talks a lot to other players, he said, about these things, which is a big reason why he's endorsing the product.
"I’ve become more conscious of what I am putting in my body now," he said. "Not only because I have the means but also because your body breaks down in this sport, and you have to pay attention to it. You have no excuse anymore. There is so much information on health benefits of good food and good products now. Not just players, but everyone. It’s much easier now to do your own research on it."
And research — or ammo, to use another Shermanism — has served him pretty well when he takes on all comers in any kind of debate setting. Why would he change his approach that has worked so well?
Eric Edholm | sports.yahoo.com | April 6, 2016