By Chris Cluff
Richard Sherman, CB #25
Hometown: Compton, Calif.
Experience: 2 Years
The Seahawks’ fifth-ranked defense is made up of a bunch of hard-working, hard-hitting players. Most of them are soft-spoken guys — with one huge exception: Richard Sherman.
The second-year cornerback has become the Gary Payton of this Seattle team. Like the former Sonic who used to talk nonstop to his opponents during games, Sherman is a brash, trash-talking defensive standout who gets under the skin of other teams and players.
It’s a bit of a surprising revelation about a guy who played at Stanford, never known for braggadocio, and was a receiver there before switching to cornerback as a junior and then being drafted in the fifth round by the Seahawks last year.
But Sherman proved to be a quick NFL study and has been a better player than Brandon Browner, who made the Pro Bowl in 2011. He also has been a much bigger talker.
Sherman, who has a team-best three interceptions and 11 passes defensed this season, has turned into the team’s No. 1 agitator. And he has become notorious for it over the last month.
It started when he taunted New England quarterback Tom Brady, who has been known to quietly talk his own brand of trash during games, after Seattle’s comeback win over the Patriots.
Sherman said Brady had told him to come find him after the game — implying that Sherman would have nothing to say once the Seahawks lost — so Sherman did exactly that after Seattle’s 24-23 win and posted a Twitter picture of himself talking to Brady with the words “U Mad Bro?” superimposed.
Plenty of people thought it was pretty brash for a second-year corner to be taunting a three-time Super Bowl winner. But Sherman was not done.
After San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh accused Sherman and Browner of playing too aggressively in the 49ers’ 13-6 win the next week, Sherman said of his former Stanford coach, via The Seattle Times: “Sometimes, man, when the bully gets bullied, that’s how that happens.”
A few days later, Sherman went back to Twitter to change his handle to “Optimus Prime” as a “Transformers”-inspired challenge to Detroit star receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.
The Lions were not impressed by Sherman’s good-natured gamesmanship.
Johnson told reporters: “I can use it, definitely use it as motivation, no doubt about it.”
Detroit center Dominic Raiola called the antic “kind of WWE-ish to me. He took a shot at Brady, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. Take a shot at coaches. Whatever. That’s disrespectful to this game, but maybe he doesn’t have a lot of respect, who knows?”
Sherman obviously was just having fun, and at least one guy seemed to like it.
When he heard about it, Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime in the “Transformers” movie based on the cartoon, called Sherman, according to FOX reporter Jaime Maggio.
After talking, Sherman asked Cullen to call again and leave a message he could share with teammates. So he did: “Richard, this is Optimus Prime. When you see Megatron, you must tell him, ‘One shall stand, one shall fall.’ Wish you the best.”
The Seahawks played mostly a zone defense seemingly designed to bracket Johnson, and they held him to three catches for 46 yards. He also dropped two or three.
“I mean, you see his numbers — they speak for themselves,” Sherman said. “He was a non-factor. So, you know, that’s how that went.”
Of course, the rest didn’t go so well. The Seahawks won the battle but lost the war, and Sherman played his part in the major letdown by the entire defense in the last-minute, 28-24 loss.
Among Seattle’s many blown plays, Sherman and Kam Chancellor let Titus Young get by them on a 46-yard touchdown catch in the first half — the longest touchdown pass Seattle has surrendered this season.
“It was kind of a zone and he just got behind us,” Sherman said. “Me and Kam kind of messed up on it, and it was a good ball.”
The Hawks got picked apart by Matthew Stafford, who threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Those were similar to the numbers Brady put up against them — 395 yards and two scores — except this time the Seahawks lost.
But even that couldn’t shut up Sherman.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Seahawks news, see CBS Sports Seattle.
Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.