The cup is half full, half empty when it comes to Sherman

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comDecember 25, 2012 

’Tis the holiday season … time for the Seahawks to be grateful for their bounty. In fact, their cups runneth over.

At least that’s Richard Sherman’s story.

This is the gist of Sherman’s reported appeal with the NFL over his four-game suspension for a banned-substance violation: His specimen container sprung a leak and the collector preserved the sample by putting another cup under the first.

Sherman contends the seal on the second cup was broken, which he believes should invalidate the results. Word is that the cornerback will hear the result of his appeal by Thursday.

In light of Sherman’s argument, it’s clear he’s banking on a breech of protocol rather than a convincing protest of his innocence, which is like a criminal hoping to avoid jail on the Miranda exclusionary rule.

And whether or not his specimen was tainted, some aspects of his remarkable season have been – which is a shame because it is certainly among the very best ever by a Seahawks cornerback.

Sherman is fully worthy of a first Pro Bowl berth. But the NFL now bans Pro Bowl appearances by anybody suspended for such violations. Announcement of Pro Bowl rosters is scheduled for Wednesday.

Sherman, in his second season after becoming a surprising force as a rookie fifth-round draft pick, added to his résumé in Sunday’s win over San Francisco. He intercepted a pass, defended four passes, and returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a touchdown that triggered the lopsided win.

Sherman has been doing that sort of thing all season, as he also has seven interceptions and shares the NFL lead in passes defended (23). The next closest on the team in passes knocked down is safety Earl Thomas, with fewer than half (nine).

Sherman’s also got three forced fumbles and a sack.

And he may lead the league in exhibiting irrepressible joy in having the opportunity to play the game.

Four Seattle cornerbacks have made Pro Bowls: Dave Brown (1984), Shawn Springs (1998) and Marcus Trufant (2007) were voted in, and Brandon Browner went as an alternate last season.

No cornerback ever had more interceptions in a season than Sherman.

“He’s had a great season, he really has,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “He’s meant a lot to us. He’s meant a lot to us in spirit and leadership and confidence.”

Confidence? Oh, yeah. Spirit? Oodles. Leadership? Getting busted by the league for cheating would minimize that aspect of his contributions, I would contend.

“He’s growing and becoming a fantastic football player,” Carroll said. “There can’t be a guy who’s covering better than him. He’s a factor on every ball thrown his way and if you (catch) one, you’re pretty fortunate.

“It’s because he’s so smart and he’s gifted and he works so hard at it and all the rest; he’s meant a lot to us this season.”

And that will make his potential four-game absence more painful. Browner also was suspended for a positive test, and will be available to return for the first week of the playoffs.

As soon as this weekend, the Seahawks could be without Sherman and Browner, and are further weakened at cornerback by injuries to Trufant and Walter Thurmond.

With Sherman’s big plays a contributing factor, the Seahawks have rolled to four straight wins and are considered among the league’s elite few. But games in the playoffs are decided by such small margins, and Sherman’s possible absence could be enough to tip the balance.

With the Saints “BountyGate” suspensions being embarrassingly overturned, the league office might be inclined to avoid drawing a hard line in a case like Sherman’s, with possible procedural question marks.

If the appeal fails, though, the Seahawks will be without one of their best players. And those of us who cover the team will lament the absence of one of the team’s most good-natured, accommodating and quotable players.

But a bad test is not just a violation of NFL rules, it runs counter to one of Carroll’s canons. In fact, it’s Carroll’s Rule 1: Protect the team.

Getting suspended might cost Sherman a Pro Bowl, but the bigger cost could come in a playoff game, when the Seahawks would have to play without one of their best defenders.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 @DaveBoling

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