Richard Sherman’s evolving, all right.
From “You mad, bro?” to “You calling me matured, bro?”
“I haven’t matured,” the Seahawks’ 27-year-old All-Pro cornerback declared Wednesday.
That was amid more talk — this time from his coach — that the native of Compton, California, who parlayed the boulder he had on his shoulder into a fiery, in-your-face phenomenon when he entered the league in 2011, has evolved. Perhaps he’s less demonstrative on the field this season. Matured, even.
“I just think people misunderstood it initially. Now they understand it a little better, and they understand what I’m doing and who I am,” Sherman said. “I think sometimes people want to come to a conclusion pretty quickly, and write their story, and then they say, ‘Oh, he’s changed. He’s matured.’
“I haven’t matured. I haven’t changed.
“I was already mature.”
This was minutes after Pete Carroll described how Sherman has changed this season.
One difference has become obvious: Offenses aren’t throwing his way as often on the left side of Seattle’s defense. Sherman has a career-low two interceptions with 13 passes defensed entering Sunday’s game between the playoff-bound Seahawks (9-5) and the St. Louis Rams (6-8) at CenturyLink Field.
Carroll and first-year defensive coordinator Kris Richard, Sherman’s former position coach, have countered by moving him around the defense more than in his first four seasons.
He was the nickel back against slot receiver Randall Cobb at Green Bay in September. He began shadowing top wide receivers all over the field in earnest opposite A.J. Green at Cincinnati in October. He limited Dez Bryant at Dallas in November, then Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh after Thanksgiving.
His effectiveness in a new role — and that already earned “You mad, bro?” national reputation — led to Sherman’s third selection for the Pro Bowl.
“I guess I’ve become more disciplined. I’ve come up with some new tricks, especially at the line of scrimmage,” Sherman said when asked for a self-assessment. “I’ve become more patient. Confidence has never been an issue.”
Uh, no, it hasn’t.
“I feel like I’ve evolved,” he said. “I’ve brought a new aspect to my game every year.”
Sherman, an active member of the league’s players union, is still witty and outspoken on issues important to him. One example: Removing the team-placed, Gatorade-bottle prop from atop the podium at the start of each weekly Wednesday press conference because that NFL sponsor is a competitor to the brand of sports drink he endorses. His loud, regular lobbying for Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and kicker Steven Hauschka for Pro Bowl selection is another.
Sherman failed at the latter effort; both are alternates. But expect Baldwin to be added to the team if Seattle doesn’t reach the Super Bowl; at least two of the six wide receivers selected for the Pro Bowl are likely to opt not to play, a league source with knowledge of the intentions of two Pro Bowl receivers told The News Tribune on Wednesday.
As for that wit, Sherman said the Pro Bowl voters overlooked the locker-room ping pong skills of Hauschka (who in his day job has made 25 of 26 field-goal attempts this season, his career-best for misses over a full season).
“Of course, they did. Who would’ve known he’s one of the most outstanding ping pong players in this league?” Sherman said in his characteristic deadpan. “I think they should have a spot in there for the Pro Bowl. Fans aren’t happy about (the all-star game) right now. They want a little more excitement.
“Let Hauschka go out there and play some ping pong.”
No, the other differences in the 2015 Sherman are more nuanced, according to Carroll. Far deeper, in a team-dynamics way, than that the brash persona on the field.
“It’s different,” Carroll said. “When you saw him on the rise, he was battling for everything he could get. He still does that, but he has a perspective now. I think he has a voice that’s listened to differently because of all he’s been through and how he’s handled himself over time.
“He does handle himself in a manner that draws the respect of other players. He also has a tremendous point of view that he presents whenever he’s given the opportunity. He presents that, and I think people look up to that. I think his power as a leader has grown.”
Sherman is known for towering over fallen opponents, trash-talking on the field and taunting opposing fans. Remember, he gleefully munched on turkey at the 49ers’ logo on Thanksgiving night 2014 in Santa Clara, California — moments before he called Niners fans “mediocre.”
“Haven’t you noticed how he’s still very demonstrative? It’s directed towards what’s going on in the game and the guys that he’s playing with,” Carroll said. “I think he’s become a very responsible teammate and he understands his role, and he just lets his energy go and has fun with it, too. He loves the game and gets excited. He turns it towards his teammates more so than where it used to go.”
Such as on Dec. 6 during the blowout win at Minnesota. Sherman ran down the Seahawks’ sideline as Baldwin, his teammate at Stanford, finished off a 53-yard touchdown catch. Then he tapped his wrist as if it was a watch, the receivers’ favorite, secret expression among themselves.
“I think he’s very pointed in that,” Carroll said of Sherman’s relationship with his teammates. “And he gets it and understands the power, that it’s been a marvelous part of the makeup of our team.”
One other 2015 difference in Sherman is way more obvious than locker-room chemistry. And more life-altering.
He became a father. Baby boy Rayden was born to girlfriend Ashley Moss four days after February’s final-play Super Bowl loss to New England.
How has that changed him?
“Well, I don’t get to keep my footballs anymore. He tries to take them and chew on them,” Sherman said. “But other than that, you just try to make sure you don’t put anything on tape that your son’s going to come back and ask you about, or look at and laugh. Try your best not to get embarrassed.”
So how grand a gift is Sherman getting for Rayden on his first Christmas?
“Nope. I’m going to get him a ball pit, things that will keep him occupied,” Sherman said, smiling. “But he’s not getting anything super nice until he earns it. Got to at least be able to talk or something to earn a gift.
“I’m not going to spoil him just to be spoiling him.”
Gregg Bell | theolympian.com | December 23, 2015