By Danny O’Neil
Richard Sherman shouldn’t be able to surprise anyone at this point. Not unless Seattle’s outspoken cornerback takes the fifth, anyway.
In two years, Sherman has gone from a fifth-round pick to an All-Pro cornerback to an all-world lightning rod. He has picked off 12 passes in his career, taunted Tom Brady and perhaps most amazingly of all, won his appeal of a four-game suspension because of irregularities in the testing procedure.
At this point, he shouldn’t be taking anyone by surprise, which makes what happened during Monday’s practice so very remarkable.
Richard Sherman isn’t known for his speed, but he showed he has a higher gear while making a leaping interception over Golden Tate on Monday. (AP)
Receiver Golden Tate appeared to have a step on Sherman on a go route down the sideline, and quarterback Russell Wilson dialed up a deep ball only to have Sherman turn on the jets, make up the step Tate appeared to have and make a leaping interception.
I’m not sure what was tougher to believe about that play: What Sherman did or the fact that he made me feel that I had underestimated him. Again. That’s not easy to do at this point given how high of regard the man is held in after a season in which he intercepted eight passes and had the best season of any cornerback in the league.
Sherman stands 6 feet 3, he is strong and tough and he has a fighter pilot’s confidence in his abilities to best anyone he goes against. But of all the traits Sherman has been praised for, his ability to run down an opposing receiver has not generally been one of them.
People will talk about his length, his ball skills and his unrelenting, at times overbearing confidence, but he wasn’t considered to have the catch-up speed like Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha had a few years back or Darrelle Revis before his knee injury. Get a step, maybe even two behind them, that’s OK. Those guys could make that up when the ball was in the air.
Maybe Sherman has that higher gear, too. Think back to the first half of Seattle’s playoff game against Atlanta. No, not Roddy White’s touchdown catch, but earlier when it appeared Julio Jones was behind the Seahawks’ defense and Matt Ryan threw a pass to him only to have Sherman accelerate, make up the distance and reach to tip the ball away before Jones had a chance to catch it.
Monday’s practice was a reminder that Sherman’s speed is an asset, not a liability for the guy who won a state champion in the triple jump as a high-school senior in California.
While Sherman’s first two years have taught the rest of the league not to underestimate the former fifth-round pick, there still may be more to learn about Sherman’s full range of skills.
Monday’s practice was proof that there’s still room for surprise, even from an All-Pro.