SEATTLE (AP) — For most of the past 10 years, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin were inseparable. College teammates at Stanford. Pros together in Seattle.
The first time facing each other as opponents in the pros was going to be noteworthy, no matter how much Sherman tried to downplay the significance before and after.
“It was just a regular game. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t have played as well as we could have. Had too many turnovers, gave up too many plays. That’s football and that’s the way things have gone this season,” Sherman said.
The subplot to Sunday’s 43-16 win by the Seattle Seahawks over the San Francisco 49ers was the return of Sherman to the city where he went from an overlooked fifth-round draft pick into becoming one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL and a Super Bowl champion.
He was a beloved star in Seattle, whose career with the Seahawks abruptly ended last March when he was released coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2017 season early. He left Seattle, found a new home in San Francisco and knew doing so would mean twice a year seeing his former team.
The first reunion was going to be the most awkward, but for the most part it went smoothly. Sherman tried to disassociate himself from the hype surrounding the game, while his former teammates — especially Baldwin — spoke emotionally about missing their friend and now opponent.
Bobby Wagner seemed to be the only one that wanted to have a little fun with the situation, saying he was looking for Sherman on the sideline during his 98-yard interception return in the fourth quarter which led to a little trash talking postgame.
“He was just telling me that I was slow. I was telling him if I’m slow then what does that say about his team? We were just talking trash,” Wagner said. “That’s my brother, it was an amazing time for us to play with each other and to see him on the opposite side in the other jersey — that he looks ugly in — was cool.”
Sherman went through his normal pregame routine that included finding Baldwin and briefly throwing a ball back and forth as they did in Seattle. He spent several minutes talking with Baldwin while also giving a quick handshake and hug to Russell Wilson and speaking with several other Seahawks players and staff.
When the game started, it was mostly a quiet day for the cornerback. Seattle didn’t throw much and the first time Wilson threw his way was the third quarter when Baldwin slipped free from Sherman’s tackle attempt for a 21-yard gain. He also saw Jaron Brown break free from coverage for an 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand.
Afterward, he made certain to exchange jerseys with Baldwin on the field.
“I’m not that emotional of a person when it comes to stuff like that,” Sherman said. “We’re obviously good friends and obviously we don’t see each other during the season. We’re going to see each other during the offseason. So it was good seeing him, good seeing his face and get to have a conversation.”
Sherman said he wasn’t paying attention when Seattle’s wide receivers recreated his famous tip play from the 2013 NFC championship game when he deflected an end zone pass by Colin Kaepernick late in the fourth quarter into the arms of Malcolm Smith. The recreation was part of Seattle’s ongoing touchdown celebrations by its wide receivers and was the one Baldwin specifically wanted to do. It just happened to come in the same end zone as the original play — just this time with Baldwin in the role of Sherman in the reenactment.
“He didn’t even know. I wanted it to be a surprise,” Baldwin said. “He knows it’s a tribute and he knows how the guys on this side of the ball feel. He knows how much we love him and how much we miss him.”