Richard Sherman Gets Real About Concussions in the NFL
The Seahawks DB sits down with GQ to talk about injuries, why NFL commentary is so dumb, and (potentially) switching places with Waka Flocka Flame
If you believed everything you saw on TV, you'd think Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks is a brash guy. And he is. He's outspoken. He talks trash. He plays hard and loud and he doesn't apologize for it. But that's only part of who Richard Sherman is. He's also thoughtful and insightful and will make you think about football and sports in new ways. And when he's not challenging your pre-conceived notions about what it is to be a modern athlete, he's making web videos for—PLUG ALERT—Oberto Jerky with Rob Gronkowski. Dude contains multitudes. I was lucky enough to sit down with the All-Pro DB and talk about the media, the NFL Draft, and how he deals with the possibility of concussions.
I watched the first Gronk & Sherm video and it's really funny. What was it like working with Gronk? What's your relationship like?
It was a lot of fun. We have great chemistry and had a great time just being ourselves. We didn't really have to do any acting, we just had a good time, had some conversations, ate some jerky, just hung out. He's a great guy to work with. Fun personality as I'm sure you've heard. But honestly we just got to hang out and they filmed it. It was good times.
Did you guys talk about the famous "U Mad Bro?"
Not really. We didn't talk about work. Most of the time when you're just hanging out, you don't talk about work. And that's what our game is. It's work.
Is it easy for you guys to separate that stuff? Like if you have an issue with a guy on the field, is it ever hard to let it go off the field?
Most of the times we can step away and let it go. We're pros. You play as hard as you can. You do everything you can to help your team win on the field, and then you go about your day. What happens on the field usually stays on the field. A lot of times the fans take it more seriously than we do. They probably take it more seriously than they take their own jobs a lot of times, which is unfortunate.
So you're one of the few guys who really survived the Madden curse. Was part of you worried when you got on the cover?
Honestly, I didn't even think about it. I'm just the kind of guy who goes out and plays and lets the chips fall where they may. There's a 100% injury rate in our game, so the Madden cover wasn't going to change that. And I'm not really a superstitious guy, so that probably helps.
We're coming up on the NFL Draft, and when you were picked you were a mid-to-late round guy. What is it like to go into the draft when you're not necessarily projected as a top-round guy? How do you deal with it?
I think everybody has their own way of doing things, but it's definitely a nerve-wracking time for any kid that's coming out of college with aspirations of making it to the NFL, because you have no idea how it's going to go. It could go a lot of different ways. And all you can do is wait and hope your name is called. And that's the unfortunate part is that you really feel powerless.
When you do get word that you've been drafted, how does it work? Do you get a little heads up? Is it out of nowhere?You don't get any heads up, and that's why you try to keep people from calling your phone that day. Keep people from reaching out, because all you're doing is waiting on one phone call during those three days. And so when you get a call from an unknown number that's not an NFL team, it's incredibly frustrating. It's just the worst. But it's one of those things where you really have nothing to do but wait. I mean, they'll tell you certain teams are looking at you, but they can say that till the cows come home. Nobody knows anything. Nobody. No Mel Kiper. No Todd McShay. They know nothing. Outside of the first few picks that anybody can guess, they don't know anything.
Does it frustrate you to watch ESPN and hear these guys talking like they know exactly what's going on in your locker room or with a team, when you know they're wrong?
It's more funny than it is frustrating. I don't really care. I think of it as them talking to a bunch of sheep who will believe anything anyway. So I just laugh. Because they have no idea. Every year they sit here and make all these predictions about who's going to get drafted and where and how they have all this inside information, and then when the guys don't get drafted there, and what they predicted doesn't happen, there's no ridicule. There's no criticism. It's just, "Oh, we got that one wrong... AGAIN. We'll get 'em next year." And people keep watching! It's the funniest thing in the world. In any other aspect of life, in any other walk of life, if somebody gets something wrong enough and they're called a professional... I'll put it like this, if a weatherman kept predicting the weather wrong, people would stop listening to him. But they keep listening to these guys!
Yeah, if you were a weatherman who predicted sun every time it rains, you'd think you'd get fired.
Now you're an intellectual guy in addition to being just a beast on the field, but you like to get in people's heads. You like to talk, and that rubs some commentators the wrong way. Why do you think it is that the media is so uncomfortable with players being vocal and outspoken?
It's one of those things, where you don't even think about it. A lot of the times the guys that are talking about it have never been in your shoes. They've never played professional sports. But then again, sometimes they are pros and so you think that they'd be better and know better, but they aren't and they don't. So you just brush it off. You let that be water off a duck's back. At the end of the day, regardless of what they say and what opinion they have, I'm going to go out there and put on a show and do my job to the best of my ability, and it's going to be what it is. I think anytime you stray away from the majority, people ostracize you. You make people uncomfortable by being a unique individual with an opinion that goes against the norm. It's almost contrarian. And people reject contrarians because that's what makes them feel comfortable. They can easily reject what I say because it allows them to fit in with the crowd.
It does seem like it's somewhat unique to football and maybe baseball. Because a lot of the stuff you do talking-wise seems to be praised and beloved in basketball players. Is there something about football culturally that causes that?
I don't know. I think it's just sports in general. They're allowed to criticize with no consequence. They can join onto the onslaught. If a player had a bad game, they can just pile on with everybody else, and of course they're not going to be criticized. If the player has an opinion that doesn't line up with the majority's opinion, they can pile on to that. But it's just one of those things, where we're in a sport where you put a helmet on. Your face isn't out there that much. So for the few of us guys that do have our faces out there, they try to put us back under the helmet. Put us in our place.
At this point Richard's (adorable-sounding) son Rayden can be heard saying "Hi!"
[Laughs] Sorry, my son came over here. [To Rayden, laughing] Hey, where you going?You can't go up the steps.
No, that sounds adorable. Actually, what is it like to be a pro athlete and a young father at the same time? How do you balance that?
It's very rewarding. It's tons of fun. But it helps with the perspective. When guys are out there criticizing everything you do and everything you say you put it all in perspective. How much do their words really mean? They're speaking to a bunch of sheep. They're like sheep herders. And their opinion means nothing. A lot of times, those same commentators have never even played a sport. And their job is as a columnist or an analyst, and it's kind of funny that you can have those jobs without having any background in the sport. Just about everything else you need a background in your job. If you're covering the law, you need a background in law. If you're covering politics, you have to have some kind of knowledge in politics. But not in our game.
But it doesn't matter, because I get to have a good time with my son. I get to come home and smile and play games with him and watch him grow and that trumps everything.
Have you seen these stories about Waka Flocka Flame being confused for you? What's your take on it?
Oh, it's pretty funny, man. He texted me the other day about it. I just think it's funny. We hung out in Cabo one night, and he left, and then later people came up to me and were like, "Oh, I thought you left. I saw you walk out." It's one of those things you just have a good time with.
Yeah, you can go out there and perform a little bit before people realize it's not him.
[Laughs] Yeah. Actually we should switch that and let him play corner for the Seahawks for a game or two. [Laughs]
Obviously one of the big stories in the NFL is concussions and the dangers of them. As a guy on the ground, does that change the way you play? Does it worry you?
It doesn't change the way I play. I've always tried to tackle with the best form, and not try to always get people down on the ground without using my head. But it doesn't change the way I think about the game or how I feel about my kids playing the game. I feel like this game has given me a lot more than its taken. It obviously takes a toll on your body and you understand the risks going into it, but you also have to understand that it's taught me discipline, hard work, teamwork, being dependable, being available, how to be a leader, how to work past adversity. Just so many things that you use in your everyday life. And you can't take that for granted. So maybe my son doesn't end up being a professional athlete, maybe he never even plays a sport, but I wouldn't hold him back from something that's been so great to me.
You're famously one of the top trash-talkers in sports, what is the best piece of trash talk you've ever said and the best you've ever heard?
The funniest one I've ever heard is when a guy famously grabbed a ref during a TV timeout and brought him over to a player on the other team and made the ref tell the other player that the first guy made way more money than this guy and that this guy would never be half the player. He made the ref say that. I mean using the ref to trash talk? That was awesome. There's nothing topping that. I don't even want to say the best I've said, because it's nowhere near that.
Jack Moore | gq.com | April 21, 2016