They’d woofed at each other each day in Seahawks practice for seven years. Did the same thing for four years before that, when they were playing and studying at Stanford.
But Doug Baldwin didn’t say a word to Richard Sherman earlier this month when he caught a pass in front of the 49ers’ cornerback, then ducked the tackle of his great friend and teammate. That was Dec. 2 at CenturyLink Field, when they played as opponents for the first time.
Baldwin, the Seahawks’ wide receiver who considers Sherman a brother — and vice versa — went on to gain 21 yards with that catch and run. It converted a second-and-21. The pass was quarterback Russell Wilson’s first target of Sherman, the former Seahawks All-Pro cornerback, and it came in the third quarter of Seattle’s 43-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“There was no need to (say anything to Sherman),” Baldwin said, laughing in the locker room at Seahawks’ headquarters in Renton on Friday. “We’ve said everything we could have possibly said to each other in the previous 11, 10 years.
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“It was fun. It was weird, but it was fun. It was the first time when we in a competitive environment where it wasn’t we were in practice.”
Sunday will be the second time. Baldwin is back from a groin injury that kept him out of Monday night’s win over Minnesota. He and the Seahawks (8-5) go for their fifth consecutive victory, which would clinch a berth in next month’s NFC playoffs, against Sherman’s 49ers (3-10) in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner starred with Sherman on the Seahawks’ defense from 2012 until the Seahawks waived Sherman in March. That was while Sherman was recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon. The Seahawks made that move because they had decided they were not going to pay Sherman the $11 million due to him for 2018.
Wagner remembers the epic, almost-daily battles between Baldwin and Sherman on Seattle’s practice field. With those two, coach Pete Carroll’s mantra of “always compete” was always on. Every pass their way — in minicamp in May, training camp in August or in practices days before consecutive Super Bowls — was a battle royale. And it got loud.
“A lot of trash-talking,” Wagner said this week. “A lot of Stanford talk. It was a great thing to watch because one play, you would watch Doug catch it over Sherm and then the next play, you would watch Sherm catch it over Doug. And it was just always a heated battle, one of those battles that you look forward to watching on the film because it was greatness at its best.”
Teammates have said watching practice film in team meetings included seeing in the corner of frame Sherman and Baldwin going at it — even on plays that didn’t come anywhere near either one of them.
“It was someone trying to get the best out of someone else every single time they stepped on the field,” Wagner said. “And watching that, you wanted to be a part of that and you wanted to do your own version of that. As a linebacker, maybe you try to step up your game on a running back.
“So I think it just kind of trickled down to everybody, because you’re watching two great competitors compete. It was always fun to watch.”
Was it weird to see them scrapping and hear them yapping at each other all the time, knowing how close they were and still are?
“Nah,” Wagner said. “I mean, if you’ve got brothers, then you would know.”
After that “weird” game against each other two weeks ago, Baldwin and Sherman met in the center of the field. The two best buds exchanged each other’s game jerseys.
About an hour later that Sunday, Baldwin was carrying Sherman’s white 49ers jersey with his name and No. 25 in scarlet on his way out of the Seahawks’ locker room. He said it was destined for the special casing and place in his home, right next to where Baldwin displays Sherman’s No. 25 Seahawks jersey.
“I’ve got so much love for him, as a human being,” Baldwin said. “Just the man that he has become. The man that he was, and the man that he is now. I’ve seen his growth, and his progression in life.
“It’s so much bigger than football. So much bigger than football.”
This past week it’s been about Sherman and Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark.
Before that Seahawks-49ers game two weeks ago Sherman said Seattle was a “middle-of-the-road” team.
Clark was asked by Seattle’s KJR-AM radio host Dave Mahler in the locker room on Monday about Sherman’s comment, and about the Seahawks’ chance to clinch a playoff spot against Sherman’s Niners on Sunday.
“Ah, man, it means a lot,” Clark said. “At the end of the day, ‘middle of the road,’ that’s just Richard Sherman being Richard Sherman. He’s not in this locker room no more, so his opinion really doesn’t matter. ...
“So at the end of the day, this is my team now. This is my defense. Richard Sherman, his era is over here. If he’s got anything to say about our defense, he can say it on the field, at the end of the day.
“We 1-0 against Richard Sherman right now. We are 1-0 against the San Francisco 49ers this year. And our plan is to be 2-0. So we are going into that stadium next week with our pure aggression. We are going to stop that run, and we are going to have fun on third downs.”
Sherman, 30, was asked by reporters at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara this past week about the 25-year-old Clark’s words. One reporter mentioned “the elephant in the room” of Clark’s comments before the Seahawks arrive to play San Francisco.
“It’s like a mouse in the room,” Sherman said. “It’s like, ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things.’ It didn’t bother me, at all. It seemed like a guy who was probably tired of hearing the same questions. I wasn’t even a part of that game. And they’re still asking questions after the game about me.
“The (Sherman) era was over in my mind, obviously. I’m here.”
And Sunday, for only the second time, Baldwin will be there opposing him.
Baldwin told the story Friday of former Stanford quarterback and Clover Park High School star Tavita Pritchard, now Stanford’s offensive coordinator, picking up Baldwin on his official recruiting visit from his family home in the Florida panhandle to Palo Alto about a dozen years ago.
“The first person I met was ‘Sherm,’” Baldwin said of the young then-wide receiver from Compton, then one year into his Stanford career. “And we went to the dorm rooms to hang out. They introduced me to some other players. And I just remember hanging out with Sherm and remembering how real he was, how honest he was with who he was as a person.
“We’ve been close ever since, because he was so genuine, so honest. When you come into a new environment and you don’t know how you fit in with everything, when someone is that genuine, you latch onto him, because you feel safe.
“We’ve been through a lot.”