As Richard Sherman made the rapid accent from little-known fifth-round pick to being known as one of the best in the game at his position, one of the few things his critics could use against him was that, unlike some other star cornerbacks, Sherman didn't usually shadow an opponent's best receiver.
Instead, Sherman has spent most of his career at left cornerback, effectively taking away one third of a field from his opponents rather than a single receiver. And it's hard to argue with the results; Sherman developed into the one of the best in the business, the corners opposite him—primarily Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell before this year—thrived at right cornerback, and most importantly, Seattle's secondary became the best in the NFL and helped the Seahawks reach consecutive Super Bowls, winning one in which they dominated the most prolific offense in NFL history. Even so, Sherman staying on one side of the field—something that has always been the coaching staff's decision, not his—was used against him by those who wanted to discredit the three-time first-team All Pro.
So now, with Sherman moving around more in 2015, matching up with opposing teams' top targets like Cincinnati's A.J. Green and San Francisco's Torrey Smith, surely Sherman must love being able to use this new development to silence his critics, right?
"I can't act like I care now when I acted like I didn't care before," Sherman said. "Really, I didn't care then, and I still don't. I'm all about helping our team and doing what I have to do to help our team win ball games. If that's what I'm asked to do, then that's what I'll do. I've never been a selfish player."
Sherman's response whenever asked about shadowing an opposing No. 1 receiver has been some variation of, "I just do what the coaches ask of me," and this year a little more is being asked of Sherman. He played both his usual left corner role as well as the nickel position against St. Louis, then he moved around the field to help neutralize Green, who had gotten off to a good start against Cary Williams, as well as Smith, who was held without a catch last week. And even if Sherman won't complain about being restricted to one side when that is what is asked of him, that doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy a different challenge from time to time.
"I don't really know when I'm going to do it really, honestly, until the day of the game, but it's a fun challenge when I'm asked to do it," Sherman said. "It's fun playing football in general, but it's a fun challenge to go out there and match up. It's just fun going out there and challenging yourself every play."
Of course, Sherman covering another team's top target is a big topic of conversation this week because the Seahawks are playing at Dallas Sunday, and the Cowboys might be getting All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant back from the fractured foot that has kept him out of the past five games. The Seahawks have faced the Cowboys three times since Sherman's rookie season, so there is plenty of familiarity for both players, especially after Sherman spent most of last year's game following Bryant after Byron Maxwell left with an injury.
Sherman said he usually doesn't find out until late in the week if he is doing anything other than sticking to left cornerback—and it's highly unlikely he would tip his hand midweek even if he did know—but he admits he wouldn't mind matching up with Bryant Sunday should the receiver be available.
"It would be a lot of fun," Sherman said. "He's a great player. We have had some pretty cool battles over four, five years. It'd be fun… He's an explosive player, he's a great player, he catches the ball high, he goes and attacks the ball. You have to be very physical every play, you have to be on your toes every play or else he's going to beat you."
Sherman may or may not spend Sunday afternoon covering Bryant, but whether or not that matchups materializes, it's clear Sherman is comfortable doing a little bit more in his fifth NFL season.