Richard Sherman has been stirring controversy around the Seattle Seahawks for nearly a month now. On December 15 it began with an argument on the sideline following a pass play called on first and goal, and grew into openly challenging the coaches’ decisions in the locker room after that win, then spread into hostile remarks to a local reporter when asked about it the following week.
Sherman hasn’t backed down from his stance during any of these episodes, apart from regretting the personal nature of his exchange with Jim Moore. Unhappy with the way the spats have continued to be followed and covered by the press, he more recently has declined to give public press conferences and refused to speak with select reporters. These are behaviors and bristliness we’ve seen from prominent Seahawks in the past in the same parcel as successful postseason runs, so I don’t think there’s any reason to assume it causes the team much discord or inconvenience. And I’ve defended Sherman’s audacity to speak or not speak however he likes.
But the episodes have prompted several meetings with Pete Carroll, both private and in a reportedly team-wide gathering, so it’s still interesting to learn how teammates react to the conflicts. To be sure, there’s something inherently flawed about the question that generates such a quote: If teammates having to be asked about an issue outside football is self-defined as distracting, then asking a player’s teammates about those issues validates its distractiveness. Nevertheless, the degree of candor teammates use to color their responses can sometimes tip the locker room mood around such events.
In a ranging interview with hip hop and culture magazine Complex published Friday, Sherman’s injured teammate and fellow cornerstone of the defensive backfield, Earl Thomas, also defended Sherman’s prerogative to invite controversy onto himself: “If he’s using it as a source of motivation, or if it’s going to help him play better, I’m all for it,” Thomas said. And then he added: “I just think it is unnecessary.”
In addition to Sherman, Thomas discusses how an encounter with Michael Jordan, who pays Thomas to endorse his Nike apparel, inspired Thomas to desire more than one championship—which should be good news for Seahawks fans. Thomas also plays word association with the word “raindrop” (get it? because Seattle) by quoting Migos lyrics and describes his rehabilitation process. And it’s good to know Earl is still riding for his beef jerky brand.
Thomas didn’t bring up the Sherman thing himself but he did definitely label the move “a distraction, especially at this point of the season” (emphasis mine). Because of the focus on the playoffs, these comments coming out the day before the Wild Card game against the Detroit Lions are sure to generate their own cycle of inquiry, although it doesn’t seem like Sherman himself will much cooperate with the act. I also wouldn’t be too terribly worried that Thomas’s remarks telegraph any discontent with Sherman within the halls of VMAC or generate extra adversity Saturday.
Thomas is known as a candid speaker himself, and has let go is own brand of light challenges toward Seattle’s players and coaching staff during his relegation as the team’s Twitter-guardian angel. And it’s also that Earl is Earl. Thomas is a sensitive guy to begin with, and has been willing to call out distractions as he finds them before. In September, Thomas described the meetings and activities before the Doug Baldwin-led “display of unity” during the national anthem as a “distraction” but later expressed confidence after Sherman’s initial disagreement with Darrell Bevell that the incident wouldn’t become a distraction.
Baldwin, for his part, mentioned in a Robert Klemko article on MMQB earlier this week that he thinks Sherman is acting out as a response to the vulnerability his unit has shown since Thomas broke his leg in week 14. “I think there’s frustration with the lack of production with those guys who have replaced Earl and Kam,” Baldwin told Klemko, which I find at least as interesting a quote as anything Thomas said.
Klemko’s profile on Sherman depends on a worn and troublesome contrast of Sherman the Stanford student and Sherman the product of Compton, California—the character divide is introduced in the piece by current Stanford coach David Shaw, but it’s a disingenuous way of crediting everything Sherman says that’s well-spoken to Stanford University, while everything rambuctionctious or uncontrolled represents Compton. As if it wasn’t Richard Sherman from Compton who got himself to Stanford, or as if Sherman wouldn’t be as thoughtful and considered in most of his conversation had he gone to a different school. As if Sherman would be a jerk or a dummy without Stanford as proof that he couldn’t be. Anyway, aside from this overplayed gimmick, the article is worth reading for seeing the support Sherman has from other teammates.
“If I’ve burned bridges,” Sherman tells Klemko, “they’re not in this building.” And that’s backed up by nuggets and anecdotes from Jimmy Graham, Kelcie McCray and Baldwin.
Baldwin continues his thought about Sherman’s frustration with the replacement players like McCray, Steven Terrell and Jeron Johnson: “He’s got to be that helping hand for those guys that aren’t normally back there.”
That’s advice I could extend to Earl Thomas as well, but the most interesting part about all this dialog remains how much their different responses reveals these players as individuals who don’t all believe the same doctrine.