Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman once said that a young Tharold Simon had so much potential, he would someday surpass Sherman as a cornerback. On Tuesday, Sherman stood by that bold proclamation even if Simon so far has not been able to do much in his three-year career because of injuries.
"He's an incredible athlete," Sherman said. "He's going to be a great ball player. I continue to stand by what I've always said—he's going to be better than me by the time it's all said and done. The kid's a player, he just needs to put it all together and hopefully he can stay healthy and it'll be a fantastic year for him."
Simon arrived in Seattle as a fifth-round pick in 2013, then his rookie season was lost to a toe injury that required surgery. Simon was healthy for most, though not all, of his second season, appearing in 10 games and starting five, showing enough potential to look like a player who someday could hold down a starting job, if not live up to Sherman's lofty expectations. But then in 2015, another toe injury, on his other foot, cost Simon another season.
So heading into his fourth season, Simon doesn't shy away from the notion that he has a lot to prove this year.
"It's definitely a big year for me," he said. "Four years in the league, I haven't really shown anything yet, so it's definitely a make-or-break year for me. I'm taking it on as that too. So I'm practicing, I'm in the meeting rooms studying hard, and hopefully everything turns out the way I want it to."
Simon is finally healthy heading into a training camp, and while he currently is behind DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane in the battle for the starting job at right cornerback, he has impressed coaches and teammates with what he has done early in camp.
"Tharold had a great day today, a good day yesterday, too," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "He's in really good shape. He seems to be leaner and in the best shape he's been in, physically he's the best he's been since we've had him. It kind of shows up, he had two huge plays today. We're just going to let a lot of time go by, we'll get a lot of snaps and see how it plays out. It's really good to have that kind of depth, that kind of competition going on at that spot."
Simon is one of many young cornerbacks that Sherman has taken under his wing in recent years, which has made it that much more difficult for Sherman to see such a talented player sidelined for so much of his young career.
"It's been frustrating, it's been frustrating," Sherman said. "It's been tough to watch. Me and him spend a lot of time together and I invest a lot of time kind of teaching him, helping him learn. The kid works hard and it's just unfortunate. You get things like dislocated toes, that's not from lack of working out or training hard, that's genetic. That's just your feet doing what they do and being messed up. So hopefully everything comes together like it's supposed to and it'll be good."
When Simon is right, Sherman said there is little that that the LSU product doesn't do well.
"He can keep up with anybody, he can jump with anybody, he can stop with anybody, he can move with anybody," Sherman said. "At 6-3 and some change, 200 pounds, to move as fluid as he does, there are very few people in the league who can move as smooth as him. I'd say Patrick Peterson is the only person who kind of comes to mind with the fluidity with which he moves."
Simon isn't going to compare himself to Pro Bowlers like Sherman or Peterson, even if Sherman wants to do so, but he is excited to show what he can do in training camp now that he's healthy.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "I'm not thinking about what's in the past, the injuries, just focusing on what's ahead of me right now… Just to go out there and give it my all, see if I can win a spot on the field, on the team. Keep pushing, keep going, and whatever happens, happens.
"I could provide a lot. I think I'm one of the best corners out there—we have a lot of good guys out there—but I think I'm one of the top guys. I just want to go try to see what I can do to help the team win."
Look through the best photos from Day 4 of Seahawks training camp at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.