As he faces Seahawks, Richard Sherman again playing at an All-Pro level

By Bob Condotta

The Seattle Times

RENTON — Richard Sherman is scheduled to talk to the media in San Francisco on Friday about the 49ers’ NFC West showdown Monday night against the Seahawks.

Maybe he’ll admit that beating the Seahawks might mean a little more than beating the Cardinals or the Rams or some other team, or maybe more likely — two years removed from Seattle — he won’t.

But those who remain in the Seahawks locker room from Sherman’s tenure know the truth.

“I’m pretty sure he wants to beat us,” Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said in a manner that made clear he was trying to get the point across as diplomatically as possible. “I’m not saying that he sits there and marks this game on his calendar. But when it comes up, you know that he wants to win. … The last game that they won down there (a 26-23 overtime victory in Santa Clara last December) he was pretty excited about it. So I’ll try to make sure he’s not excited this weekend.”

Wagner remains close to Sherman, saying they saw each other often this summer. Sherman maintains a residence in the area.

“We’ll talk a little trash during the game and then when he comes back I make him buy me food,” Wagner said. “That’s sort of the thing — whoever loses has to get the food.”

While last year Sherman may have been excited just to get a little revenge on the Seahawks, Monday’s game has significantly more meaning with the 49ers standing at 8-0 and the Seahawks at 7-2.

The stakes are pretty obvious. A 49ers win would give San Francisco a two-and-a-half-game lead on the Seahawks in the NFC West, knowledge that it couldn’t lose the head-to-head tiebreaker and add legitimacy as the team to beat in the division. But a Seahawks win would put them right smack in the race with the knowledge the 49ers still have to come to CenturyLink Field to end the season.

Sherman has been a big part of the 49ers’ turnaround from a 4-12 season a year ago to being the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL at the halfway point.

A year ago, Sherman was still recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered in Nov., 2017 that helped spur the end of his Seahawks career, and it was evident at times in his play.

But this season Sherman is again playing as well as any cornerback in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman is allowing a quarterback passer rating of just 35.7, by far the lowest in the NFL (as one person noted on Twitter, and as Sherman retweeted, if opposing quarterbacks simply spiked the ball every time they’d have a higher passer rating (39.6) than throwing at Sherman).

“He’s not gotten beaten much at all,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s doing really well.”

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said it’s obvious a return to health has led to a return to the form Sherman showed in Seattle from 2011-17, when he played at a level that figures to have him someday fitted for a bust in Canton.

“Last year he was able to play, results-wise he was pretty good,” Shanahan said. “He didn’t get beat very much, wasn’t targeted a lot, and this year has been very similar. But, he’s a lot more healthy this year. Last year, he didn’t go through an offseason of working out, he just went through an offseason of rehab and trying to get healthy for the season.

“This year he didn’t have to rehab, he worked out all offseason, got his legs fully back, and looks like the same guy he’s always been and seems to be getting those same results, too.”

Sherman has three interceptions this season, giving him 35 in his career — 10 more than any other player in the NFL in that time (Marcus Peters and Earl Thomas are second with 25 each).

Sherman has been given ample credit for his impact in the 49ers’ locker room. At 31 years old he is the fifth-oldest player on the team (his bio in the team’s media guide calls him “Uncle Sherm).”

Evidence of his influence, he has been voted by teammates as a captain each of the last two years, something he never was in Seattle. Wagner and Kam Chancellor typically earned that title for the defense.

Now that it’s been a year-and-a-half since his abrupt departure from Seattle — and that this is the third game he has played against the Seahawks — may mean that lingering hard feelings have begun to dissipate.

Asked if he thinks the way Sherman’s Seahawks career ended is still a sore subject, Wagner smiled.

“I don’t know if it still bothers him or not,” Wagner said. “But he’ll make it bother him for the game. He’ll find a way.”