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O’Neil: It will be heartbreaking to see Seahawks without Richard Sherman after season-ending Achilles injury

Richard Sherman couldn't fight back the tears when talking about his ruptured Achilles. (AP)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Richard Sherman is the single most charming professional athlete I’ve covered and absolutely one of the most stubborn.

He can be absolutely incredible and he can be unbelievably aggravating.

But as he talked about the season-ending injury he suffered in the second half of Thursday’s game in Arizona, I realized I had a new adjective to apply to Sherman.

Heartbreaking.

Wilson’s play stands out in win | Hawks win, lose ShermanPhotos

It felt absolutely terrible to watch this player who has personified Seattle’s tenacity stare down the reality that he will be unable to play the rest of this season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right heel.

“I knew what was happening,” Sherman said. “It had been bothering me throughout the whole season. It was one of those things, you just have to play through it as long as you can and when it goes, it goes.”

It went in the third quarter of the game as Sherman was trying to break in front of Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“I just thought I could get the ball,” Sherman said.

He stayed down after the play, not moving. By the time he was taken to the sideline he could be seen telling teammates about the injury.

You can only guess at the impact this will have on Seattle’s season. The Seahawks certainly aren’t going to get better by replacing Sherman with Jeremy Lane, whom they agreed to trade away only a week and a half ago (he returned after failing a physical with Houston).

But there’s more than just a strategic concern here. This is a human element, too. It’s not going to be as fun to watch the Seahawks without Sherman, and it’s absolutely going to be agonizing for him to be forced to do nothing more than watch. The guy hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career, and now he’s going to be relegated to being an observer.

Sherman has been on Seattle’s injury report for much of this season with an assortment of injuries. At first, the thought was he might be mocking the league’s injury policy. After all, the NFL came and investigated Seattle last season for failing to disclose a knee injury that Sherman had, even though it never caused him to miss a play let alone a game.

He didn’t practice on Tuesday, his Achilles cited as the reason. He was asked after the game whether playing a second regular-season game in the span of five days was responsible for the injury.

“I think it would have gone eventually anyway,” Sherman said, “but it definitely didn’t help. But it’s part of the game. It’s part of the game. Unfortunately we have to play.

“I did everything we could to try to help my team win the game, and injuries happen.”

And for the second time in two years, the Seahawks have lost a pillar of the secondary that has been the backbone of this defense.

Last year, it was Earl Thomas whose streak of 106 consecutive regular-season starts ended when he missed a November game in Tampa Bay with a strained hamstring. Thomas returned the next week and suffered a season-ending leg injury.

Now, it’s Sherman who has played in 105 straight games since being drafted by Seattle in 2011, starting the last 99.

“I don’t even know how to address that right now,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He has been just a bastion of consistency and competitiveness and toughness and through all of the stuff that we’ve worked through together and all of it. It’s been awesome. It has been hard and it has been challenging. He has been an extraordinary, almost iconic player in this league.”

And he will be again. Just not this season.

As Sherman stepped in front of a podium to answer questions after the game, he cracked a joke about the suit he was wearing, which was a shade of Kelly green favored by leprechauns.

“This suit was a lot cooler before the game,” he said.

He ended it blinking back tears.

“Just got to stay positive,” he said. “That’s all you can do.”

Except that was really tough to do. At least it was Thursday night.