Richard Sherman huddled with Doug Baldwin, his former teammate at both Stanford and the Seattle Seahawks. Both kneeled on the turf at midfield following another Seahawks’ drubbing, 43-16, of the San Francisco 49ers.
Sherman had never played at CenturyLink Field in anything other than a Seahawks jersey. On Sunday, he left the field with a Seahawks jersey but it was Doug Baldwin’s No. 89. And it contained a personal note just penned by Baldwin.
Baldwin got Sherman’s 49ers’ white, scarlet and gold jersey— described by Bobby Wagner as ugly — that also contained a personal message.
Sherman then wrapped his arm around Seahawks running back Mike Davis on his way out, and for the first time, headed for the visitor’s locker room instead of the home one.
“It’s a little smaller,” Sherman said with a smile. “They didn’t leave a lot of space over there for the visitors.”
Sherman didn’t say anything postgame quite as jarring about his former team, where the All-Pro cornerback spent his first seven seasons, as he said during the week.
Nothing about having no relationship with Russell Wilson, or how Wilson receives special treatment from coach Pete Carroll, or how surprised he was that the Seahawks released him this offseason while he was hurt.
Nor was there anything about how the Seahawks are a middle-of-the-road team with a completely different cast in the secondary sans Sherman and the rest of the Legion of Boom. He also didn’t repeat that he’s seen Wilson throw five interceptions in a game.
Wilson didn’t have any picks Sunday. Instead, the Seahawks quarterback threw for a season-high four touchdown passes, including three in his first six attempts, and finished with 11 of 17 for 185 yards.
“I thought he played well,” Sherman said. “Their run game was really effective and they let him get to his spots and kept the game plan simple.”
Sherman claimed this was about as normal as any other game.
Pregame was a little more lively; all hugs and kumbaya. Sherman embraced Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. Schneider’s youngest son, Jack, even wore a gray Richard Sherman Seahawks jersey and chatted with him one-on-one before getting a hug.
“He must have grown 3-4 inches in the last year,” Sherman said. “It was good to see him, and it was good to see all the familiar faces.”
Sherman and Wagner hugged at at midfield for the pregame coin toss before they headed for their respective sidelines. Before that, Sherman played some catch in 49ers team apparel with Baldwin, as was their usual pregame custom when they were teammates.
Then Wilson jogged over from midfield and hugged Sherman. It was brief, but cordial before Wilson paced back toward midfield while wearing his headphones, and Sherman kept talking with Baldwin.
Wilson took the high road when asked about Sherman after the game.
“I saw him pregame and just said, ‘What’s up’ real fast,” Wilson said. “That was it. I think we were both focused on getting prepared for the game. So that was really all I had.
“But he’s a tremendous player, and he always has been and he always played tough and always played through injuries and in practice. I just didn’t get a chance to talk to him much today.”
Interestingly, those exchanges with Baldwin and Wilson occurred in the same south Seahawks end zone and in the same corner where Sherman, in 2014, secured the Seahawks’ trip to their first of back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Sherman’s deflection to Malcolm Smith for the interception is now known around Seattle as simply, “The Tip” and secured the NFC championship over the 49ers.
Oh, and Smith starts, too, alongside Sherman for the 49ers these days.
That’s what inspired Baldwin and the rest of the Seahawks’ receivers to re-create the play as part of a celebration after Seattle’s opening score, a four-yard TD from Wilson to Jaron Brown opposite of where Sherman was lined up in the first quarter.
Baldwin played the part of Sherman in the TD celebration. He tipped a pass directed at Tyler Lockett (playing Michael Crabtree) to David Moore (playing Smith).
“I didn’t even see it,” Sherman said. “I don’t think about it, honestly. They had a lot of fun celebrations.”
“That was a tribute to my boy,” Baldwin said. “I know all you guys think that we’re robots and that we’re not humans and that we don’t have emotions, but when you spend so much time with guys and doing what we do, day in and day out, it’s hard. You spend those hard days with guys that you love. Sherm is obviously one of those guys that has done so much for this organization that we thought it would be nice to give him a tribute and we had an opportunity to do so.
“I know it was kind of weird, we’re scoring, he’s on the other team, we’re doing the tribute. But that was in our hearts this week.”
That was before the Seahawks had a 27-10 lead in the third quarter and Wilson passed to Baldwin, who was covered by Sherman. It was their first pass thrown Sherman’s way, and Baldwin proceeded to break Sherman’s tackle and race to a 21-yard gain. Sherman gave Baldwin a side hug as they walked back to their huddles later in the drive.
“That was a funny play,” Sherman said. “He ducked in and ducked out. That was pretty funny between us.”
Seattle took a 34-10 lead when Wilson went Sherman’s way to find Jaron Brown in the end zone for his fourth TD pass with 14:17 remaining.
Wagner then returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown along the 49ers sideline and said he was trying his best to eye Sherman as he sprinted.
Nothing in spite. All in jest, Wagner said.
“He was telling me (afterward) that I was slow and I told him that if I was slow, then what does that say about his team?” Wagner said. “We were just talking trash. That’s my brother. It was an amazing time for us to play with each other. And to see him on the opposite side of the field in a jersey that he looks ugly in was cool.
“It’s like playing your brother. It’s one of those things where you hope he does good but you hope you do better and you win, and that’s how it was. I wanted him to play well and be safe and healthy, but I want us to win and put up a lot of points, which we did.”