RENTON Richard Sherman was back.
Not on the field. In the Seahawks’ locker room. He wheeled in Friday on a knee scooter, with his surgically repaired right foot and leg propped up.
For his teammates, just seeing the three-time All-Pro cornerback again after he ruptured his Achilles tendon last week then had surgery Wednesday performed by a specialist in Green Bay, Wisconsin, made this a good Friday.
"I PROMISE YOU," Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said, "he is going to find a way to talk trash from the sideline."
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All-Pro safety Earl Thomas just liked hearing Sherman’s jokes again. Even the bad ones.
"Yeah, it’s just his voice," Thomas said. "He is a great communicator. He can communicate with anybody. S just having him around, him speaking up out of the blue, him saying his funny jokes--or even when it’s not funny--people know that is Sherm.
"So it’s good to have him back."
Sherman has a season-ending injury. It’s likely Kam Chancellor is going to miss at least Monday night’s game against Atlanta if not more with a neck injury that had him seeing doctors this week. Thomas admitted Friday he was fighting himself mentally the last two weeks while missing two games with a pulled hamstring.
It all leaves Thomas, like Sherman a three-time All-Pro, contemplating the career mortality of Seattle’s famed "Legion of Boom."
The first 11 games Thomas has missed of his eight-year career have come within the last 12 months.
The Seahawks prepared for this in May, when they drafted defensive backs with four of their first eight draft picks. But this changing of the older guard has come perhaps sooner than the team expected.
Not only is the "Legion of Boom" not 25 anymore. It isn’t even able to be on the field.
"Yeah, slowly but surely," Thomas said. "We are getting thin as far as that group. You can’t control that. It’s the nature of the game. It’s a violent game and guys play 100 percent every play, so it happens.
"But the younger guys, you know it is going to be a culture, because we have set the standard. They see it, the way we practice, they see it.
"Even when we are gone, they are still going to be good."
But not as good as what Seattle’s had for the last six years.
Quarterback Russell Wilson called Sherman "the heart and soul of our team."
"Yeah, it’s super unfortunate that we don’t have Rich," Wilson said.
"He was in here today and he’s super positive. He’s a guy that really uplifts his teammates, so we’re definitely going to miss him out there."
Monday night will be the Seahawks’ first game in more than six years without Sherman starting at left cornerback, since Oct. 23, 2011. That was game Walter Thurmond cracked his fibula during Seattle’s 6-3 loss at Cleveland. Thurmond was the Seahawks’ plan to replace Tacoma’s Marcus Trufant at left corner. Trufant had gone on injured reserve earlier in October 2011 and was nearing the end of his 10-year career with the team.
Sherman, then the rookie fifth-round draft choice thought to be too slow to stay without outside receivers, replaced Thurmond. He stayed there for the next 98 consecutive regular-season games plus 10 more in the postseason, including Super Bowl 48 and 49.
Now the NFL’s leader with 32 interceptions and 102 passes knocked down since 2011 is done for at least 2017 into ‘18.
Reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan, All-Pro receiver Julio Jones and the defending NFC-champion Falcons will be the first foe to test Jeremy Lane at left corner instead. Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard said following Friday’s practice it will be Lane, the benched right cornerback and nickel back, with the first chance to start for Sherman.
But don’t be surprised when Byron Maxwell, who began his Seahawks and NFL career in 2011 at left cornerback, is starting there. Seattle brought him back on a free-agent contract this week after Miami released him last month.
Chancellor is almost assuredly going to be missing from the secondary on Monday, too. The star strong safety missed another practice. He returned Thursday from getting doctors’ opinions on his neck-stinger injury he got late in last week’s win at Arizona. Bradley McDougald, who had started the last two games at free safety while Thomas was out with a pulled hamstring, is ready to start at strong safety against Atlanta.
"Obviously, we are going to miss Sherm. We are going to miss Sherm and Kam. You can’t replace those guys," Thomas said. "But the good thing about those two guys, they’ve taught the younger guys that are going to be in their spots.
"I think we are going to be very prepared, and I like our chances."
Sherman estimates he’ll be back doing football work in four to five months. But this week Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said it was too early to say if the team expects Sherman to be ready for the start of training camp next summer. Sherman will turn 30 in March and will be in the final year of his contract in 2018.
"You can’t replace Richard Sherman," Wilson said. "He’s a Hall of Fame cornerback, a guy who can do everything. So we’re just going to have to fill in the space and do as much as we can, too, to find ways to win."