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ESPN article: Richard Sherman’s strained relationship with Seahawks, resentment among defensive players is rooted in Super Bowl XLIX loss

Seth Wickersham's story details how Richard Sherman's dissatisfaction is rooted in Seattle's Super Bowl loss. (AP)

In the Seahawks’ locker room following their December win over the Rams, the game in which Richard Sherman lashed out at coach Pete Carroll after Seattle was nearly intercepted at the goal line, the cornerback was surrounded by a group of reporters who wanted to know why he had become so incensed.

“I was letting him know,” Sherman said, referring to Carroll, “we’ve already seen how that goes.”

It was a reference to the decisive play of Super Bowl XLIX against New England, when the Seahawks were a yard away from winning their second straight title only to be denied by an interception at the goal line. Sherman evoking that moment was a sign that it still deeply rankled him, and the sideline outburst – his second of the season directed at a coach – was evidence of his mounting frustration with Seattle’s offense.

All of which is fleshed out in great detail in a fascinating story by Seth Wickersham, which was published Thursday with the headline “Why Richard Sherman can’t let go of Seattle’s Super Bowl loss.” Wickersham reports that Super Bowl XLIX is the genesis of Sherman’s discontent, which led to both the cornerback and the team being open to a trade this offseason before seemingly coming to some level of harmony. It also takes a close look at other, related issues in Seattle’s locker room: Carroll’s handling of the fallout from the ill-fated Super Bowl play and perceived favoritism toward Russell Wilson, which, Wickersham writes, has led to resentment beyond what’s normal for most start quarterbacks.

This excerpt offers a good summation:

“If the hardest thing in football is to manage the celebrity that attends a Super Bowl win, the next-hardest thing is to forget a catastrophic Super Bowl loss. Something complicated and vital to the chemistry of a great team was broken on that interception. According to interviews with numerous current and former Seahawks players, coaches and staffers, few have taken it harder than Richard Sherman. He has told teammates and friends that he believes the Seahawks should have won multiple Super Bowls by now. And with just one trophy and the window closing fast, he has placed responsibility for that failing on the two faces of the franchise: Wilson and Carroll. Sherman, who like Wilson declined comment for this story, thinks Carroll hasn’t held Wilson or many young Seahawks to the defense’s championship standard. He’s been disillusioned not only by that single play more than two years earlier but also by his coach’s and quarterback’s response to it.”

Sherman refuted the story while speaking Thursday with SiriusXM NFL Radio, saying, “It’s just a bunch of nonsense from anonymous sources.” Carroll and former Seahwks running backs coach Sherman Smith were the only on-the-record sources in the story.

Defensive lineman Michael Bennett took exception to it as well, tweeting that it’s “trash” and “all gossip” that belongs on TMZ. He expressed support for Wilson.

In an interview on “The Russillo Show” on ESPN Radio, Wickersham responded to Bennett’s criticism by saying: “I’d like him to see my phone and see all the people in the building who say I nailed it.”

Center Justin Britt also came to Wilson’s defense after the article was published, calling it “#fakenews” in one tweet and posting another:

The article winds down by noting that Sherman has returned for offseason work this spring seemingly in a better place mentally. Wickersham writes that the two sides became “tired of the drama” by the draft, and, interestingly, he reports that two first-round picks was Seattle’s asking price for Sherman.

From Wickersham: “Carroll seemed to have done it again, flipping despair into hope. People in the building wondered how Sherman would respond to a hit to his pride, returning to Seattle after he had set the stage to be shipped. But he went about his job as if nothing had happened. All business. He’s tutoring the young defensive backs, drafted to carry on his legacy. Maybe Sherman needed to dream of playing elsewhere to realize how good he has it. Or maybe it’s all just believable now in spring but breakable come autumn, after the inevitable incomplete throw at the goal line.”

Wickersham joined “Brock and Salk” Thursday morning to discuss the story. You can listen to the interview here.