Seahawks defenders are slight-ly motivated

Posted Mar 8, 2013

One of the reasons the Seahawks’ defense performed so well during the 2012 season, says All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, is that the players played with motivating chips on their shoulders.

They’re not team issued, nor league approved, but most of the players on a Seahawks defense that ranked No. 4 in the NFL last season took the field with a little something extra: The chips on their shoulders.

Several of the players talked about the extra motivation they have during the season, when the defense also allowed the fewest points in the league. But the topic became topical again this week when All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman made a trio of appearances in the Los Angeles area to promote “Students With a Goal.”

Sherman definitely plays with a competitive chip on his shoulder, and his mother said it began at a very early age.

“Richard has always been very determined and a go-getter. He’s always been motivated,” Beverly Sherman said after her son’s appearance at his alma mater, Dominguez High School in Compton. “He couldn’t initially play when his (older) brother started playing, but that kind of started this chip on his shoulder. He got a little irritated that they wouldn’t let him play.”

That’s when Richard was only 6. But growing into a 6-foot-3, 195-pound cornerback who led the NFL in passes defensed (24) and tied for second in the league in interceptions (eight) last season has done little to diminish the size of that motivating chip.

Asked about his mother’s assessment, Sherman not only agreed, he said the performance-enhancing attitude also applies to several of his teammates.

“I’ve done a lot of interviews this year and they’ve asked me, ‘What is so special about this team?’ ” Sherman said. “They’d ask, ‘What one word would I use?’ And I’d say, ‘Slighted.’

“Everybody’s like, ‘Ah, Pete (Carroll, the coach) has all these guys, this ragtag bunch of guys.’ But if you look at one thing they all have in common most of them have been slighted.”

For example?

Free safety Earl Thomas. Slighted? Like Sherman, he was selected All-Pro last season. Thomas also has played in the Pro Bowl the past two seasons, and he was the 14th player selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.

“Earl Thomas? He’s too short,” Sherman said of the stereotype the 5-10 Thomas has faced his entire career.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor. “He’s too big, he’s too slow,” Sherman said of the 6-3 Chancellor, who has finished third and second on the team in tackles the past two seasons and also had four interceptions in 2011.

Cornerback Brandon Browner. “He’s too big and too slow, too,” Sherman said of the 6-4 Browner, who spent four seasons playing in the CFL before the Seahawks gave him a chance to prove he could play in the NFL – which he has by intercepting nine passes in two seasons and leading the team in passes defended (23) in 2011.

Defensive end Chris Clemons. “Undrafted. Not a great player,” Sherman said of the label that dogged Clemons until the Seahawks acquired him in a 2010 trade with the Eagles. All Clemons has done the past three seasons, his first three as a starter after spending five other seasons as a backup with three other teams, is produced 33.5 sacks for 246 wrong-way yards.

Defensive end Red Bryant. “Big Red? Ah, he’s not a D-tackle,” Sherman said of the 323-pound Bryant, who spent two seasons as a little-used tackle before being moved to end in 2010 and blossoming into a run-stuffing force.

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. “Utah State? Bobby Wagner? Who is he?” Sherman said of the every-down player who led the team in tackles and finished second in balloting for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season.

“It goes on and on and on and on about players on our roster,” said Sherman, who also included “too short” quarterback Russell Wilson and “not fast enough” running back Marshawn Lynch while counting his chips.

“But that’s the one thing they all have in common: They’ve been slighted. And I think that makes the team play with a chip on its shoulder. And I can’t imagine how big that is.”