Richard Sherman wants you to know something. As usual.
The Seattle Seahawks’, um … outspoken, All-Pro cornerback wants to dispel before the regular season even gets started Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field that he and his “Legion of Boom” secondary haven’t changed a thing since it thumped Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in February’s Super Bowl.
Sherman wants it known that he and his plundering pals aren’t going to play any less aggressively than they did last season while leading the league in interceptions and fewest points allowed. That was before the NFL enacted “points of emphasis” for 2014 to have officials call more tightly defensive holding and illegal contact downfield by defensive backs.
Many — including, most noticeably, Washington Redskins veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last month — blamed the Seahawks and their methods for the NFL making the already difficult task of legally guarding a downfield receiver even tougher this season.
Sherman hears that and scoffs.
“We didn’t adjust anything,” he said. “We’ve been playing the game the right way. We continue to play it the right way.
“Everybody just complains and whines about us breaking the rules, etcetera, etcetera. Apparently they break the rules a lot more than we do. So it’s just funny to watch it. The same thing that makes you laugh makes you cry. So it makes us laugh.”
Sherman was alluding to the fact officials assessed 39 penalties on the Seahawks in four exhibition games last month and only three of those were for defensive holding or illegal contact by a Seattle defensive back.
Thing is, Sherman doesn’t do change. On anything.
He’s the same he’s been since leaving Compton, California, for Stanford, and then leaving Stanford for Seattle as an overlooked, fifth-round draft choice in 2011 that is the shrewdest of the many struck-it-gold moves by coach and executive vice president Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider since they arrived five years ago.
And if he hasn’t changed after this offseason, he never will.
He acknowledges he forced a discussion about race into our society in the wake of his heated comments about San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree in an on-field, national-television interview with Fox immediately after the NFC Championship game. In the seven-plus months since, he’s won the Super Bowl. He’s been a rare athlete invited to the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C., at which President Barack Obama joked: “Sometimes I do feel disrespected by you reporters. But that’s OK. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is here tonight. And he gave me some great tips on how to handle it.”
When he and his Seahawks teammates stood behind the president at a White House ceremony in May to honor Seattle’s championship, Obama again singled out Sherman.
“I considered inviting Sherman up here to the podium today,” Obama said. “I’d have given him the mic, but you know we’ve got to go in a little bit.”
Then the president went on to explain: “He grew up in Compton with some wonderful people but also with gangs and drugs and guns. His dad had to wake up at 4 a.m. every day to drive a garbage truck.
“But because of his dad’s hard work and his family and his mom, Richard ended up earning a 4.2 GPA in high school and went to college. … He showed in his neighborhood that they could make it.
“And if he seems a little brash, it’s because you've got to have attitude sometimes if you are going to overcome some of this adversity. And the fact that he still goes back to inspire high schoolers for higher goals and making better choices, that’s all-star behavior.”
That was part of the reason Sherman was named this spring as one of Time magazine’s 100 most-influential people in the world.
Yet when The News Tribune asked him recently how his life has changed since the Super Bowl, Sherman shook his head. His long, braided hair moved with it, side to side.
“Not much at all,” he said. “Obviously, people want more of your attention and your signature and things like that, but not much otherwise.”
Does winning the Super Bowl feel like the pinnacle of his career, already, at the age of 26?
“No, it doesn’t,” Sherman said. “It feels like we have got more to go, more to accomplish, more things to do.
“I don’t think anybody on our team is complacent with one championship.”
That is what is driving Richard Sherman in 2014. Not the ring he already owns. Not the president buddying with him. Not Time magazine’s list.
And to the people who say the Seahawks can’t do it again, because only one team in the past 15 years — the 2003-04 New England Patriots — have won back-to-back Super Bowls:
“We’ve never cared about people’s opinions and it doesn’t really change now,” Sherman said, reiterating yet again that he is unchanged.
“Guys have always had their opinions. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t pick us to win last year. It doesn’t matter to us. They don’t get any criticism when they get it wrong so they have no reason to really study it and nail it on the head.
“Who knows what will happen?”
Sherman, though, does know this:
“Respect from people who don’t play the game,” he says, “means nothing to us.”