© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Few voices resonate as loudly as Richard Sherman’s. Perhaps part of that truth is due to the fact that Sherman has often has a loud voice, making it abundantly clear throughout his career how he’s felt about naysayers, his opinions on social justice, former coaches, the NFL league office, etc. But more than the volume it’s that Sherman is a veteran voice who’s spoken with a consistent level of authenticity since he’s come into the league.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has a genuine criticism of Sherman, now in the “Uncle Sherm” stage of his career, as his teammates call him. Even when his competitive nature blinds him to reality — see: that non-incident incident where he falsely accused Baker Mayfield of not shaking his hand — he takes ownership for that. After that Mayfield incident, Sherman acknowledged that he sometimes conjures things that may or may not exist for the sake of creating a competitive edge, and called Mayfield to apologize. A guy by the name of Michael Jordan used to do something similar, sans apologies.
Sherman is what you look for in a player; ruthlessly competitive, intelligent and prolifically diligent in his preparations, and outspoken and inspiring with his teammates. He’s a longtime executive vice president of the NFL Players Association for all those reasons. Suffice it to say, his voice carries weight.
On Tuesday, Sherman spoke to the media for the first time since reporting to camp to say that he feels just as safe at camp as he does anywhere else.
“I feel relatively safe,” Sherman said. “I mean, just the same as I do in the rest of society, honestly. At the end of the day, once you get through all the hoops you got to jump through and all the protocols and everything. I mean, you get on the field football is football.”
Thus far, since testing began on July 28 for most veterans, Sherman said the team has been tested 8-to-10 times with a mid-nasal swab each day. The swab gets a spin in one nostril, a spin in the other, and “kind of tickles.” He feels like it’s become part of the daily routine.
As far as that feeling of safety goes, Sherman said he feels the 49ers are in a unique situation. They’ve had zero players decide to opt out, while the New England Patriots lead the NFL with eight player opt-outs thus far. He never considered opting out, and while he spoke to his level of comfortability with the 49ers’ safety protocols, he said his family will remain, at least in the short term, at home in the Seattle area.
“Oh no, [opting out], that was never really a conversation,” Sherman said. “Honestly, more of the conversation was whether [my wife, Ashley Moss] and the kids would come and how the school situation and all that would go. Obviously, I have my home in Seattle, where we stay the majority of the time, but outside of that, I think that was the only concern. Obviously the safety of my kids, my family is at the highest for me. And that’s the dynamic that we needed to figure out, and we figured it out. They’ve stayed back and we’re adjusting in that regard.”
So, for the moment, Sherman is without his family — his wife and two children — in Santa Clara. It’s all business, and he expects his teammates to handle themselves with a similar mindset, in part, due to the borderline nonexistent nightlife in Santa Clara, and because of the bitter taste the Super Bowl loss left with his teammates.
“At the end of the day, these are grown men and these are pros,” Sherman said. I”f they’re, if they’re going to shirk it off, they’ll get quarantined, they’ll get replaced. It’ll be unfortunate. That’s why we have testing every day, so they can catch it quick. But I think on a team like ours, and, you know, we’re uniquely constructed to deal with this.
Because obviously we’re in Santa Clara, there’s not a huge nightlife. You know, it’s not like we’re in Atlanta or Texas or Miami or Las Vegas, or LA, where there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of places you can go, a lot of things you can do to get yourself in trouble. I think our team is incredibly focused because of how close we were to winning the Super Bowl last year and how you know that taste in their mouth is a bit of discipline in itself. That hunger, that angst is discipline in itself. So I think our team is incredibly committed and driven towards that goal and I think that in itself will be be disciplined enough.”
While the 49ers are unlikely to have any fans in Levi’s Stadium this year, that doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of the league. The NFL has declined to institute a league-wide policy for fan admittance thus far, similar to how the federal government has left COVID-19 precautions up to the states. That could mean fans in stadiums, at least on a limited basis. Sherman said that he expects that to be the case, and while the NFLPA and NFL have made projections for massive losses in revenue, he thinks fans will be in stadiums.
“A lot of our projections, we’ve projected conservatively and if everything goes bad and there’s zero fans in the stands and there’s, you know, no concessions, there’s no revenue from that regard, which is really extremely doubtful,” Sherman said. “There are obviously teams and stadiums and states that are open to having fans in the stands.”