Best player in camp? Richard Sherman has it covered

Posted Aug 15, 2013

In a training camp of heightened expectations, where many players’ efforts matched the hype, Richard Sherman stood out – and it had nothing to do with anything the All-Pro cornerback said.

What more can be said about Richard Sherman?

How about this: If the daily performance of the third-year cornerback during the Seahawks’ just concluded training camp is any indication, Sherman will be even better this season than he was last season.

And that is saying a lot. Sherman was voted All-Pro in 2012, when he tied for second in the NFL with eight interceptions, led the league in passes defensed (24) and met every challenge in his unique way.

But this summer, Sherman has been even better – good enough to be’s pick as “Best Player” in camp.

Others deserved consideration, of course, starting with All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas and Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson, and also including All-Pro center Max Unger and Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung. But Sherman was the overwhelming choice, with input from coaches, scouts and other players.

Michael Irvin also had something to say on the topic when the Hall of Fame wide receiver visited Virginia Mason Athletic Center this week to tape an interview with Wilson for the NFL Network.  

“I love Richard Sherman. I absolutely love him,” Irvin said.

This from a guy who made a career of making life miserable for cornerbacks, as he caught 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

“This game, and especially guys who play on that island, requires such confidence,” Irvin said. “And Sherm has that confidence. A lot of guys have that confidence, but very few have the confidence and aura about them so much so that when he walks on the field others get confidence.”

In Irvin’s book, that aura and confidence can even take precedence over talent.

“I always say I will take the less-superior athlete,” he said. “Don’t give me the guy who’s superior to everybody. Give me the guy who plays great and knows how to make everybody else play great. And that’s what Richard does. He doesn’t back down. He doesn’t care who it is across from him. People may take it the wrong way, but he’s the greatest dude in the world.”

As good as Sherman is as a player, he has made even more of a name for himself by engaging opponents in good-natured banter.

“He doesn’t have anything against you,” Irvin said. “Sherm does what he needs to do to play his best. It’s not about putting you down. It’s, ‘This is what makes me play my best.’ So that’s what he has to do. He builds it up. He has the confidence and then he goes out and backs it up.

“And I love that.”

And it’s not like Sherman is lacking when it comes to being a superior athlete. In addition to playing wide receiver and cornerback at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., Sherman also was the state triple jump champion as a senior. He went to Stanford as a wide receiver and only switched to cornerback for his senior season. A fifth-round draft choice by the Seahawks in 2011, Sherman was forced into the starting lineup on the left side because of injuries to Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond. He started the final 10 games, intercepting four passes and also having 17 passes defensed. Last season, in his first full season as the starter, he was voted All-Pro.

“Look how quickly he has become what he is,” Irvin said, shaking his head. “That’s what’s really amazing, just to see that – and at that position. That’s a hard position – cornerback, playing against these guys in this league.”

So what did Sherman do during an offseason crammed with interviews and appearances – including one on the cover of Sports Illustrated – to hone his obvious skills to even more of a cutting edge?

“Just work on details,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “There are a lot of subtle details to the game that a lot of people don’t notice. Obviously you work on your conditioning, your strength and your body. But there’s subtle details that you can see on film, little things you can work on to improve your game. And it only takes a couple of little things. Like they say, it’s a game of inches.”

Take it from a guy who uses every inch of his long-limbed, 6-foot-3 body to his advantage in tipping, deflecting and slapping away passes – when he’s not picking them off.

“He’s an incredibly adept cover guy,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a spiritual accent to whatever we’re doing. He’s got a great spirit about him. He’s as competitive as you can possibly be, which we’ve totally held in this program.

“We’ll count on him to match up against the guys, and really just play football again. He’s prepared like it, he does it in every practice every day. He’s doing everything that he needs to do to position himself to do it again. It’s one thing to have a good year, but it’s coming back and coming back, which is something that we really cherish. He’s up against that now, and he’s done all of the right things to get that done.”

For Sherman, the proof has been on the training camp practice field.