SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For the first time since they entered the league, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will be on opposite sides in a game Sunday.
It will be Sherman’s first return trip to Seattle since the Seahawks cut him March 9.
On Thursday, Sherman said he was looking forward to seeing “some old faces.” However, he also indicated that Wilson wasn’t among the former teammates and coaches he kept in touch with.
“I don’t really have a relationship with Russell,” Sherman said. “We were teammates. We played through a very special time for the franchise.”
Moments earlier, it was mentioned to Sherman by a reporter that the cornerback knew what Wilson was capable of in terms of making plays outside the pocket.
Sherman quickly offered the other side of that coin.
“Yeah, I’ve also seen him throw five picks in the game, so you see what he’s capable of on both sides of it,” he said. “You understand that he can be defended, so you go out there and give it your best shot.”
Wilson threw five interceptions in a 38-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 11, 2016.
Speaking to Seattle media earlier Thursday, Wilson praised Sherman as being “as good as it gets at corner” and said he has a lot of respect for him and how he plays the game.
“He’s going to be a Hall of Fame corner,” Wilson said. “He’s a guy that meant so much to our football team when he was here. Just how many plays he made. … He was always able to teach the younger guys as well.
“And so, to be able to go up against him in practice every day helped my career and just helped my understanding of the game and just confidence in everything else going against one of the best corners. … So I’m grateful for that.”
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin have nothing but good things to say about former teammate Richard Sherman before he returns to Seattle on Sunday.
Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated reported Sherman and some Seahawks players did not care for what they considered to be preferential treatment for Wilson from Seattle coach Pete Carroll. That stemmed from a 2017 ESPN report on a growing rift between Wilson and some defensive players after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss to New England.
Asked about it Thursday, Sherman elected not to expound but acknowledged his feelings from the time.
“Everything I’ve had to say about him and that whole situation, I’ve already said,” Sherman said. “It was a good time for the team. It was a good time for the organization. They didn’t handle some things like I felt like they should have, other guys felt like they should have.”
“I thought it was really s—ty, to be honest with you, how it ended. [I] would have really liked for him to stay here and had an opportunity to finish his career with this organization, but it’s part of the business. It doesn’t work out that way.”
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks receiver, on how the team cut ties with Richard Sherman last offseason
Sherman, who signed with the 49ers as a free agent March 11, offered thoughts on other things he didn’t feel the Seahawks handled particularly well, namely his release.
At the time, Sherman was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and due to make $11 million this season. He was frustrated that it happened during his injury recovery after he made four Pro Bowls, had played in 105 consecutive games and led the NFL in interceptions over a seven-year stint during which he helped lead one of the best defenses in league history.
“You just expect after you’ve done so much for a franchise that they wouldn’t cut you while you’re hurt,” Sherman said. “It’s kind of more of a respect thing than anything, but they did, so you have got to kind of roll with the business.”
That’s a sentiment shared by current Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, a longtime friend and teammate of Sherman’s who was more blunt in his assessment of the veteran’s departure.
“I thought it was really s—ty, to be honest with you, how it ended,” Baldwin said. “[I] would have really liked for him to stay here and had an opportunity to finish his career with this organization, but it’s part of the business. It doesn’t work out that way.”
On Thursday, Sherman also said he “100 percent” stood by his previous comments about the deterioration of Seattle’s roster building and talent evaluation.
“If you just look at the draft classes we had early on and the draft classes they’ve had in the last three, four, five years, the truth is the truth,” the 30-year-old said. “I don’t have to make stuff up. People can take it how they want to. It’s unfortunate that things have gone the way they have.”
While Sherman and the Niners enter the final month of the season at 2-9, the Seahawks are 6-5 and in the thick of the NFC playoff chase. Despite outside perception that the Niners and Seahawks were two teams headed in opposite directions, Sherman said he was not surprised to see Seattle in its current position.
“It’s not like they’re 8-1 or [better]. If they were that, I’d be very surprised, but [they are] kind of middle of the road,” Sherman said. “They’re fighting in every game. They’ve won some close ones; they’ve lost some close ones.”
As for Carroll, Sherman said he envisioned the pair having a relationship in the future.
“I’m sure we’ll have some relationship at some point and talk,” Sherman said. “Pete was a good man and a good coach and did everything he can for that franchise. I don’t have any ill will towards him at all.”
Before the season, Sunday’s matchup looked to be one of the most interesting and drama-filled of 2018. It was originally scheduled to be on Sunday Night Football but was flexed to an afternoon time slot because of the Niners’ struggles.
For his part, Sherman said he wasn’t looking at this game any differently than any other game, and he doesn’t have any notion about what kind of reaction he might get.
Baldwin, though, says he hopes Sherman receives a positive reaction from the Seattle crowd and wouldn’t be surprised if the emotion of it all did have some sort of impact on Sherman.
“From a humanistic standpoint, I think it’s very difficult to separate those emotions,” Baldwin said. “He gave so much blood, sweat and tears while he was here. I think him coming back there will be some emotions there. … I think that will definitely have some emotional baggage with it.”
ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.