No hard feelings, according to Carroll.
“Sherm had to do what he had to do,” Carroll said. “He had to change allegiance and get tuned into his new team, and whatever took place was OK. I didn’t care.”
With Sherman returning to CenturyLink Field Sunday for the first time as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Carroll spent most of his weekly news conference fielding questions about the sometimes-tumultuous ending to the All-Pro cornerback’s career in Seattle and his messy departure this past offseason.
After being released by Seattle and signing with the 49ers, Sherman said he felt as though the Seahawks had “lost their way a little bit” in terms of evaluating players and that he felt disrespected by the team’s decision to move on from him following his season-ending Achilles tear when the Seahawks had stuck with other prominent players through serious injuries. He also said Carroll’s message had become stale with some of the longer-tenured veterans and that the coach’s philosophy is better suited for college.
“I knew who Sherm is,” Carroll said Wednesday. “I know him way differently than you guys probably think I do and I think the world of him. There was times along the time he was here that he said things I might not have agreed with and had to work through and all that. But he’s his own man. He was a stud of a guy when he was here and whatever came out during the time in the transition came out. I don’t care. I could care less about that.”
Sherman made four Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro three times during his seven seasons with the Seahawks. His 32 interceptions from 2011 to 2017 led the league, and he made one of the most important plays in franchise history when he tipped Colin Kaepernick’s pass in the end zone to teammate Malcolm Smith for an interception that sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII. Carroll cited that play as his favorite on-field memory of Sherman.
“Consistently playing great football,” he said when asked what he thinks Sherman’s legacy in Seattle is. “He did it over a long period of time.”
Carroll acknowledged that Sherman could be difficult to manage but looked back at that in a positive light.
“He was a challenge, yeah,” Carroll said. “He was a challenge like many of our guys have been. It was a challenge in being really willing to work with somebody and see the beautiful aspects of this individual. He’s an amazing person and I had great respect for him. So I was challenged because he’s brilliant and he had a lot of thoughts and this tremendous competitiveness about him that took him places that other athletes don’t get to. Every bit of it was worth it. Every bit of it was worth it.”
With all the compliments he was giving, Carroll at one point joked that it was a “pretty good lovefest for Sherm.” Then he said with faux intensity, “Better get ready, buddy.”
Carroll anticipated a warm welcome for Sherman on Sunday.
“I think he’s loved around here for all the great stuff that he did,” Carroll said, adding that Sherman “did a lot of great stuff here. I don’t think our fans think any differently than I do about that.”
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner agreed.
“He should be received with the loudest cheer that they can possibly cheer and the warmest of welcomes,” said Wagner, a teammate of Sherman’s for six seasons. “It’s not like he said, ‘I hate this team, I want to leave.’ It was the business side of everything. So I would be surprised if they booed. If anybody booed, they didn’t like him when he was here. I think he deserves the applause. He was a part of the team that helped bring the city the first football championship. I wouldn’t expect anything other than respect.”