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Richard Sherman provides silver lining to 49ers’ rough season

SANTA CLARA (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers knew they were getting a standout cornerback when they signed Richard Sherman in March.

It turns out they also got a coach and an ambassador.

This season hardly has gone according to plan for the 49ers, but the way Sherman has meshed with his new team and become a steadying veteran influence has to be considered a success.

Young defensive players have leaned on him for advice. Even players on offense pick his brain. And if San Francisco’s front office enlists his assistance when it comes to luring free agents this offseason, Sherman says he’s ready to hit the recruiting trail.

The three-time All-Pro never has experienced this much losing — he won a Super Bowl with Seattle and enjoyed six winning seasons in his seven with the Seahawks.

But Sherman, who signed a three-year contract with San Francisco that can pay him as much as $39 million, believes the 49ers (4-11) are headed in the right direction.

“I knew what I was coming into,” he said Thursday. “A bunch of young guys, you try to relate to them, try to bring them together. Get them to play good ball. ... You can do your best to lead them the best you know how, and that’s what I tried to do.”

The stats wouldn’t suggest the 30-year-old Sherman has stood out this season. He enters Sunday’s season finale against the Los Angeles Rams still seeking his first interception, and he has just four passes defended in the 13 games he’s played.

But that’s largely because teams avoid throwing in his direction, opting instead to target younger cornerbacks such as Ahkello Witherspoon or rookie Tarvarius Moore.

Sherman’s value has come through in subtle ways for a defense that ranks 10th in the league, allowing 344.6 total yards per game.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him,” Moore said. “Whenever you ask him a question, he’s always there to help. So I can definitely say he’s been a blessing, not just for the young guys, but everybody in that room. It’s kind of like having another coach on the field right there with you.”

Hearing such talk might come as a surprise, considering Sherman has earned a reputation for being outspoken and sometimes combative.

He was ejected from last Sunday’s loss to Chicago for fighting, though that only came after Bears players, upset about a late hit, went after 49ers safety Marcell Harris. Two Chicago players got ejected as well.

Aside from that incident, Sherman has avoided making headlines for the wrong reasons.

“I don’t really care about public perception,” Sherman said. “But what my teammates think about me, and how I carry myself in the locker room, means a great deal. I care very little about the opinions of people outside the locker room.”

Sherman has missed two games with minor injuries, but he’s relieved to have made a comeback from a ruptured right Achilles that ended his 2017 season after nine games.

Could he possibly help recruit safety Earl Thomas, a former Seattle teammate who will be a free agent this summer?

“Would I love to play with (Thomas)? Sure. I would love to,” Sherman said. “I’m sure he’ll have a plethora of opportunities, but I’m sure we’re gonna throw our hat in the ring.”

NOTES: Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (calf) didn’t practice Thursday, and tight end Garrett Celek (concussion), linebackers Mark Nzeocha (groin) and Malcolm Smith (Achilles), cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee) and center Erik Magnuson (hamstring) were limited.