When Seahawks rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin sat down for a team meeting Friday, Richard Sherman was seated in the chair right next to him, as has been the case for just about every meeting this season. The only difference this time is that Sherman was two days removed from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.
"I spoke to him the day of the surgery, and he was telling me, 'I'll be back giving you all the tips I've got," Griffin said. "And sure enough, he came in today, sat right next to me like he usually does, and he was telling me everything he knew and telling me the stuff I need to be looking at. It's crazy, (two days) after his surgery, he's here in the meetings helping me out. Man, that's incredible. I can't ask for a better vet."
And that wasn't the first time since suffering the injury that Sherman found himself playing the role of coach. When Sherman went down with what he immediately knew was a season-ending Achilles injury last week, it would have been perfectly acceptable, expected even, if he would have hopped on a cart, ridden to the locker room, then spent some time alone reflecting on the fact that, for the first time in his seven-year career, the Seahawks were going to play games without him on the field. Sherman did not take a ride to the locker room, however—he wouldn't even accept help off the field—and he instead spent the rest of the game hobbling around the sideline encouraging teammates and offering tips to his fellow cornerbacks.
"He could have just headed to the locker room and felt sorry for himself, but Sherm's not that type of person," Griffin said. "That tells you the type of people we have on this team and around this organization. It speaks highly of Sherm. He could have just left, but he sat there and helped."
Sherman explained the decision to stick around following last week's game in Arizona, saying, "You just try to make sure you give them the tips you've got, give them pointers, any indicators you see and encourage them. Obviously I can't help them on the field anymore, so I just give them encouragement."
Sherman had surgery in Green Bay Wednesday and was back with the team Friday, and to nobody's surprise, he stepped right back into that role of unofficial coach that has always been part of who he is as a player. Even when healthy, Sherman has always made a point of taking young players under his wing, a reason why Seahawks coach Pete Carroll once described him as the "epitome of a team guy."
Another small, and yes, silly, example of the team player Sherman in was on display as he headed out towards practice on a chilly November afternoon. While the calendar said Friday, it was a Thursday from a football perspective thanks to a Monday night game, and this season, that means Techno Thursday for the Seahawks, so even though Sherman wouldn't be practicing that day or any other this season, he headed out of the locker room on a scooter while wearing short shorts, the unofficial uniform of Seattle's Techno Thursday "movement."
When Griffin arrived in Seattle he wasn't sure what to expect from an experienced All-Pro cornerback, but the rookie realized immediately that Sherman was going to be important to his development.
"He helped me more than a lot," Griffin said. "He took me under his wing early, trying to teach me everything he has learned and knows, and that's all I could ask for from a vet and a person like Sherman. I felt like I was put in great opportunity to be able to play with a guy like that. At first I didn't know it was going to be like that, that he was going to be so helpful, but that speaks to Sherman's character. It's awesome. Even after the injury, he sat there and still helped me during the game. The last couple of series, he was trying to help me and tell me what was going on, what could happen. That speaks a lot of him. I've been grateful to have a type of person like that to mentor me."
Now that he won't be able to play, Sherman will only have that much more time to encourage and educate the defensive backs who will now have to step up in his absence.
"He has already been very clear," Carroll said. "He has been adamant about wanting to get back as soon as he can… He wants to get around and be close to the guys that he has been working with and make sure that he is available for the guys he has been helping. You saw him on the sidelines; he didn't waste a minute. He has already expressed that that's what he would like to do, and I'm all for it."
Carroll is hardly surprised that Sherman has responded this way to this injury. Even as a young player, and especially as he has matured and become a veteran leader, Sherman has always seen it as part of his duty as a teammate to not just make sure he is at his best, but that his teammates are as well. It has become something of a ritual over the past few years that, every time a new cornerback arrives in Seattle, that player finds himself putting in extra work after practice with Sherman.
"Sherm has always been really like the first guy to step to the calling of a new guy," Carroll said. "He has always been there for them. He has been the guy that will sit with, talk with them, have lunch with them, stay on the field after practice, he's kind of the arm-around, mentoring type of approach that he has always understood—I don't remember the first year or so, I'm sure it didn't happen the same then—but he has always understood that role and he has cherished that role. Really, maybe more so than anybody around here, he has expressed a willingness to want to go the extra step or two to make sure he can connect with the guys and see them through. He likes the part of cheerleading for guys and rooting for the young guys and stuff like that. He has always been really outward in that regard, and that has been a really cool way that he presents himself."
Sherman explained last season why it is important for him to not just focus on his craft, but to also give any help he can to teammates.
"You want to give guys the best chance you possibly can to be the player they're capable of being, and if you feel like you have information that can assist them in any way, you want to give it to them," he said. "You want to tell them about the mistakes you made before they have a chance to make them, kind of put them ahead of the curve. That's what I try to do, I try to give them a lot of information, a lot of tricks, a lot of shortcuts they can use that will get them out of trouble."
Yet as much as Sherman will be a part of what the Seahawks do going forward, it will still be difficult for teammates and opponents alike to see him sidelined Monday night and for the rest of the season.
"I texted him just because of my respect for him," said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who was Sherman's defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. "I was really bummed to see him not play, and the (text) I got back just totally spoke to the competitor that he is. He said, 'Hey, tell (Julio Jones) I like competing against him.' It was the perfect response from Richard, because of the competitor that he is. He was disappointed that he's not going to play in that game because of the battle that he and Julio have. I thought that was so true to his identity as a competitor, so I'm sure I will find him before the game or after the game and wish my best for him for a fast recovery and get back out next year, better than ever."
Jones, who as Quinn points out has had plenty of battles with Sherman over the years, is also going to miss competing against one of the game's best corners.
"I love playing Richard," Jones told ESPN. "I love matching up with Sherm. He's a great competitor. He's obviously a leader on their defense, on their team. And it's going to be difficult for them not having him out there."
But even though Sherman won't be on the field Monday night, his presence will still be felt.
"He is a great communicator," safety earl Thomas said. "He can communicate with anybody, so just having him around, him speaking up out of the blue, him saying his funny jokes, or even when it's not funny, people know that's Sherm, so it's good to have him back… Oh he is going to have fun (on the sideline). He loves the game. He is a great competitor. You are going to see that passion come out."
Added quarterback Russell Wilson: "He was in here today and he's super positive, he's a guy that really uplifts his teammates… It's going to be heartbreaking not to have him out there, but I know he'll be fully supportive and be great for us throughout the week and in the games."
The best photos from the Seahawks' Friday practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Monday's Game against the Atlanta Falcons.