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Maiocco: Richard Sherman gives 49ers locker room something it really lacks



Former enemy Richard Sherman was officially introduced as a member of the 49ers on Tuesday, in a press conference that was as entertaining as it was surreal. For four seasons during the Jim Harbaugh-era, Sherman played the role of villain to perfection in a 49ers-Seahawks rivalry that was the best in the NFL during that time.

Sherman’s brash and outspoken demeanor made him an easy target for the vitriol of Niners fans during that stretch, but those same characteristics are just what this young 49ers defense needs, according to longtime 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco.

“I think that this defense needs somebody like Richard Sherman,” Maiocco told Drew Hoffar & Kevin Frandsen on KNBR Tonight. “I think a lot of the guys on defense are talented young guys, but there’s not a whole lot of personality on that defense. There’s not a lot of alphas on that defense. Even a great player — and I think he’s already a great player — DeForest Buckner, he’s not a grab a teammate by the face mask and tell him what he has to hear kind of guy.

“I think Richard Sherman comes in and gives this defense some swagger and gives them maybe a little bit more toughness. There’s no Ronnie Lott type of guy who is going to be the voice of that defense, somebody who’s willing to mix it up, but who is thoroughly respected at every corner of that locker room. 49ers don’t have a guy like that. But I think Richard Sherman comes in and I think he’s going to be a leader from day one, and I think he gives that locker room something that it really lacks.”

Sherman’s value as a motivator and leader will be especially important for the development of sophomore cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who showed flashes as a rookie last season and is built in the same mold as Sherman. If Sherman can help the 49ers get the most out of Witherspoon, that in itself may justify the signing.

“I asked Sherman afterward, “how much of this is what you’re bringing to the table for the 49ers on the field, and how much are your contributions, responsibilities going to be off the field?’ And he said 50-50. He’s definitely embracing it. The 49ers expect him to be a good football player, he expects to be a good football player, but he also comes in with his eyes wide open that ‘they brought me here for a lot more than just how I perform as a press corner.’

“They need him to take a guy like Witherspoon under his wing. Last year Witherspoon came in, and he was as raw as an oyster, and he really didn’t have anybody else at the cornerback position who could kind’ve show him the way and lay down the law. Not that he needs the law laid down to him, he’s a very good kid, but he didn’t have anybody he could look over too and say ‘okay, that’s the way you do it.’”

Listen to the full interview below. To hear Maiocco on Sherman, skip to 2:06.