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NFL Playoff Preview: Seahawks’ Sherman relies on ‘old school’ fundamentals to thrive

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

If the Seattle Seahawks win Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl, we have an early favorite for Media Day darling.

He's brash. He's talented. He gets in opponents' faces. And he's almost certain to play a part in the victory if they win.

He's Richard Sherman.

Yes, you likely have come to know Sherman as one of the league's best talkers and cover men, always seeming to make waves with his hands, feet and mouth out on the field. He's easily the most recognizable member of the Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" secondary that's easily the league's best.

But Sherman is more than that. He's also one of the more fundamentally sound players you'll see in the league — hence his place this week on USA Football's All-Fundamentals Team, as voted by former NFL heavyweights Bill Polian, Carl Peterson, Herm Edwards and others.

Sherman also is highly intelligent. Sure, noting that he went to Stanford (where he played for San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh) likely tells you that. But Sherman's football smarts also are off the chart.

For further evidence, check the video up top — at the 1:30 mark, Sherman tells Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas that the New Orleans Saints were with the win to start the second half so they were likely to take a shot downfield. And sure enough, the Saints did.

The subject of the Seahawks' physical play came up Wednesday, and Sherman believes he and his Seahawks secondary mates play the way football is meant to be played.

“I think that’s the way the game of football is built,” Sherman said, per ESPN. “When the rules were created, the game was allowed to be physical. That’s old-school football.

“Now on every pass, a receiver is turning around looking for a flag. That ruins the game. It changes the whole DNA of football and ruins the game when you see flags every single play."

The NFL's recent trend has been to protect unprotected players, such as quarterbacks and defenseless receivers, and the rules have changed over the years and the way referees have called games reflect this. But the Seahawks have been allowed to play their style somewhat freely, and even though they are among the more penalized teams in the league, it has not held them back too much so far.

“I think DBs playing physical is the way football should be,” Sherman said. “You see great offense all the time, but we stand out there and make it a dogfight every play. There’s going to be pushing off and grabbing here and there.

“That’s the game of football. That’s how it’s always been. Ask the Michael Irvins of the world or the Jerry Rices, guys that had to deal with that before these rules we have now.”

Sherman took umbrage to what former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride (who recently retired) said about Sherman and the Seahawks secondary, saying after the Giants' 23-0 loss to the Seahawks late in the season that they are adept at holding, not covering. Sherman bristled at the notion, challenged it and said he uses all the negative attention he gets as fuel to get better.

“We cover more than we hold,” Sherman said. “He’s a guy that's a little bit bitter. His team didn’t score any points against us that day. I’d look for way to explain that away also. You can get fired over those things.”

“It’s incredibly mind-boggling. It fuels me every single day. I read everything people said, ‘He’s stiff. He doesn’t have ball skills. He doesn’t have the instincts to play cornerback.’ I looked at all those press clippings. People always say, ‘Don’t ever read those things.’ I read anything negative anyone said about me and turned it into a positive.”

Sunday's game against the 49ers is going to be a knockdown, drag-out fight. It might not be pretty at times. You can be sure that Sherman will be in the middle of some action, whether it's jawing with an opponent or getting physical with him.

And that's just the way he likes it.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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