When Doug Baldwin first heard the idea, he wasn’t sure if he liked it, but the more he thought about it, the more the Seahawks receiver came around on it.
So when Jaron Brown caught a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to give the Seahawks the lead early in the first quarter, Baldwin and Brown and fellow receivers Tyler Lockett and David Moore reenacted the most famous play in franchise history, Richard Sherman’s NFC championship game pass breakup that secured the win that sent Seattle to Super Bowl XLVIII.
With Sherman and linebacker Malcolm Smith, who caught Sherman’s tip of a Colin Kaepernick pass, in the building as members of the 49ers, Baldwin wanted to do “a tribute to my brother.”
After Brown secured a 4-yard touchdown catch, he played the role of Kaepernick, lofting a pass toward Lockett, who was playing the part of Michael Crabtree. Naturally Baldwin, who was teammates with Sherman for 11 years at Stanford and in Seattle, played the role of Sherman, tipping the ball to Moore, aka, Smith.
“It was brought up to me during the week, and at first I was a no-go on it, but the more I thought about it, I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it as a tribute to my brother. Why not?’” Baldwin said. “…That was a tribute to my boy. I know all you guys think that we’re robots and that we’re not humans and that we don’t have emotions, but when you spend so much time with guys and doing what we do, day in and day out, it’s hard. You spend those hard days with guys that you love. Sherm is obviously one of those guys that has done so much for this organization that we thought it would be nice to give him a tribute and we had an opportunity to do so. I know it was kind of weird, we’re scoring, he’s on the other team, we’re doing the tribute, but that was in our hearts this week.”
Sunday’s game, a 43-16 victory over the 49ers, was Seattle’s first against Sherman since he was released in the offseason, then signed by San Francisco. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll briefly caught up with Sherman before the game, as did quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, among others, but the day was particularly meaningful for Baldwin, who has been one of Sherman’s best friends since the two were teammates at Stanford.
“It was nice to see him again,” Baldwin said. “I’ve missed him. Missed his voice, missed his presence, missed his tenacity. Just missed the human being. That’s my brother, I’ve known him for 11 years now, so it’s kind of strange being away from him this long, but it’s great to see him.
“This game is so short in terms of the career, you only get so many opportunities to play football with the guys that you love, and I’ve been blessed to have 11 years with Sherm. It was emotional in the sense that I just couldn’t wait to see him. I know it may sound weird to a lot of people when they hear that, but when you spend as much time as we do training, working out, practice, meetings, 12-hour days, and you see the same guys over and over again, you get attached to them emotionally. Sherm’s one of those guys who’s just a special human being, so it was special to see him again.”
In addition to enjoying a long pregame chat together, Baldwin and Sherman went back to the pregame routine they shared as Seahawks teammates even though they’re now NFC West rivals, going for a slow jog around the field while playing catch.
“It was (special),” Baldwin said. “It brought great memories, but it was also sad knowing that will be one of the last times we do it… We talked about it. I asked him earlier in the week, ‘Is it cool if we do the warmup together?’ He said yeah, so we made it happen.”
During the game, Sherman lined up on Baldwin on a number of occasions, though Wilson threw to Baldwin only once with Sherman in coverage, completing a short pass that Baldwin turned into a 22-yard gain after breaking Sherman’s tackle attempt.
“Surprisingly, it just felt normal, because we did that all the time in practice when he was here,” Baldwin said of facing Sherman. “So I felt really comfortable, but I knew it was going to be a battle because it was in a game. It was fun, it was an interesting experience for sure.”
Normal or not, Baldwin made sure to let Sherman hear about that missed tackle.
“Yeah, there was something said,” Baldwin said. “I’m not going to repeat it.”
Sherman said of that Baldwin catch and run, “That was a fun play. He usually ducks in, and he ducked out that time. It was pretty funny.”
And Baldwin wasn’t the only Seahawks player engaging in some friendly trash talk with an old friend. Wagner and Sherman had a chat after the game, and when asked what they talked about, Wagner said, “He was just telling me that I was slow (on the 98-yard interception return for a touchdown). I was telling him, if I’m slow, then what does that say about his team. We were just talking trash. That’s my brother, it was an amazing time for us to play with each other and to see him on the opposite side in the other jersey that he looks ugly in was cool.”