© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Sherman has played a lot of football for a long time. Drafted with the 154th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the ever-expressive Sherman is now 3,075 days removed from that draft slot which he’s deemed the ultimate sign of disrespect.
But after shaking that disrespect to carve out a Hall of Fame career, Sherman is still dealing with the fallout from a year in which he played with sutures in his heel; physically able to make movements, but limited by a crushing pain that fundamentally changed what he was capable of doing in the 2018 season.
It’s a common theme in professional sports for players to reveal they’ve never been healthier at the start of the season. But for as much as Sherman talks, he tends to back it up in equal measure. When training camp began, Sherman talked about the limitations he’d dealt with in 2018 and affirmed that he can now “move and groove groove like I want to.”
“The rest of my body got to a spot where everything’s moving well, and then there’s still a staple in your heel and no matter how much you move, no matter how differently you try to adjust to you it, you’re like, ‘Man, I can get into the cut that I want to get into, but if I get there I know it’s going to be a substantial amount of pain, but I can just push through it,'” Sherman said.
Now, physically revitalized, the three-time first-team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler is on a mission for respect, frequently taking to Twitter in recent days to remind folks who he is.
48% completion percentage for my career. Not 1 year…. not 2 years….. career. Show me who else doing that. Just a lot of flashes
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 29, 2019
Just tired of the disrespect
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 30, 2019
Sherman said that his improved health leaves him happy to sit on an island if that’s what “genius” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (Sherman’s words, not mine) wants to dial up next Monday against the Cleveland Browns.
“100 percent. If that’s what what Saleh wants to do I’m definitely up for that you know, I’m healthier,” Sherman said. “I can have more responsibility than obviously I could last year just because of circumstance.”
There’s a fair chance that sort of scenario plays out, with the Browns likely to test Sherman’s temporary counterpart, Emmanuel Moseley, and free safety Tarvarius Moore (who are both effectively rookies), potentially with Odell Beckham Jr. Moseley, an undrafted second-year corner out of Tennessee, effectively red-shirted last season, losing his one opportunity to start due to a dislocated shoulder which saw him placed on injured reserve on November 2.
Moseley said Monday that Sherman’s been by far the most helpful in helping him learn, both in practice and in film study.
I asked Sherman what was one of the first things he picked up on to establish himself in the league (something that Moseley would be wise to heed). His answer was… deep.
“Ladies love the long ball,” Sherman said. “That’s what I’ve picked up on. It really is true. At the end of the day, in this league, if you stop the long ball, you stop the big play, then you can stop a lot of offenses. No matter what, for the history of time, the easiest throw was the longest throws. People like nines (go route) and sevens (corner route) and eights (post route). If you can stay on top of those and get the ball from time to time, then you’ll last a long time in this league.”
Don’t expect Moseley to be run ragged on those sorts of deep routes though. As Sherman said (when asked what he likes about Moseley), he believes he’s the fastest player on the team.
“It’s all of it. It’s his feistiness, it’s his decision-making, it’s his press, it’s his confidence, it’s his movement his ability to move, his lateral quickness, his straight-line speed,” Sherman said. “He’d honestly tell you he’s probably the fastest one on the team. And he knows Marquise [Goodwin] is on the team. And you can appreciate that. Obviously I don’t think he’s beating Marquise, but you know, he’d tell you otherwise. He’s a guy that that can play this game at a high level and I don’t think he’s going to shy away from any challenge.”
While Sherman calls for his own respect online, he called for respect for Moseley in person. Though, if Sherman’s early praise of the 23-year-old holds true on Monday, he might not need to keep doing so.
“Honestly, I wish he would have had a chance to play last year, because then people wouldn’t be as panicked as they are right now,” Sherman said. “He’s poised. He can play… I think that sometimes we overcomplicate things and we say, ‘Oh my god, this guy is this way on paper, this guy was this.’ Forget that. These are humans against humans and he’s a human being that can play this game at a high level and we believe in him. That’s why Kyle [Shanahan] and John [Lynch] kept him and that’s why he’s getting this opportunity.”
That same pessimism extended to Sherman in some respect, and to Ahkello Witherspoon in a much stronger sense coming into the season. The wretched, no-good, very-bad 49ers had one aging corner and a young corner whose promise was lost with his confidence.
At least, that was the fatalistic drum beat heading into the year. As we all found out – and just about immediately – a healthy Sherman is a very impressive Sherman and Witherspoon was near faultless before his foot sprain.
The second-guessing of Moseley as Witherspoon’s replacement came as no surprise to Sherman, who affirmed that “GM Sherman” wouldn’t be trading any first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey.
“It’s always the case. Just like everybody was feeling about Ahkello, and they were like, ‘I don’t know, why didn’t they make a move?’ And then Ahkello’s playing well and they’re like, ‘Oh ok, well let’s see. Why didn’t they get a big-time receiver?’ And they see we’re winning games… and this will be another one of those situations,” Sherman said. “‘Maybe these guys know what they’re doing.’ [Moseley] is going to be fine. We have a lot of trust in E-Man and what he can do and how he can play.”
Moseley, like rookie tackle Justin Skule, was an unheralded four-year player in the SEC, an experience which, as Skule said earlier this year, was the some of the best preparation you can have before coming into the NFL. Moseley remembers coming in to guard Alabama’s Amari Cooper (then a junior) as a freshman in 2014, when Cooper was in the midst of a stellar game against Tennessee. Cooper had racked up six catches for 195 yards and 2 TDs in the first half. In the second, he had three for 27 yards.
“They just threw me in there and said, ‘Go play,'” Moseley said. “I wasn’t starting the game and then I was thrown in there. The guy that was starting, they had pulled him out and I went in there… It was fun though. I did pretty well.”
He at least knows he’ll be starting this time, but Moseley might be thrown in again on Monday night, this time into the fire that is Beckham Jr. and the cannon-armed Baker Mayfield. If Moseley enjoys the experience half as much as he did when he faced Cooper, it will probably bode well for the 49ers.