Richard Sherman was asked if he was going to pretty much speak his mind during the biggest week in American sports in the biggest market in American sports.
This question was posed to the Seattle Seahawks cornerback after he lit up San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in a postgame interview with FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews, after he called Colin Kaepernick’s pass to Crabtree a "mistake," after he thanked all the "A-hole" Twitter followers who help motivate him, before he said the "choke" signal he made was directed at Kaepernick, before he took one more swipe at Crabtree by saying he’s not a top-20 receiver and before he tweeted, "A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of a sheep."
So, once more, does Sherman plan on speaking his mind during Super Bowl week?
"I mean, pretty much," Sherman replied.
This will be a Super Bowl week unlike any other, at least from a media standpoint. Sherman and his teammates will have every opportunity to inflate their profiles in front of what will surely be the biggest press corps in American sports history.
More chances to speak out. And more chances to say something that will rile up the Denver Broncos.
But for those who think Sherman is going to shoot off his mouth and get himself or his teammates in trouble, think again. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll won’t let that happen. Neither will Sherman.
The Seahawks are known as a bold, brash bunch. Sherman is the leader of that crew. He dubbed himself "Optimus Prime" before his matchup with "Megatron" Calvin Johnson and he’s been known to prod others as well, including then-New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. But Sherman usually reserves his strongest yapping for postgame confrontations, such as the one with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following an upset victory last season.
In this latest case, Sherman didn’t take any swipes at Crabtree until after the game was over and the Seahawks had secured a victory. Anything before then would have been seen as unnecessarily yanking an opponent’s tail.
Sherman is too smart for that. And the Stanford grad actually took the opposite approach during his postgame interview on Sunday when he was asked about the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning.
"You try to get in Peyton’s head," Sherman said, "you’ll get lost."
Sherman knows not to take a swipe at Manning, who surely wouldn’t yap in his direction, anyway. And even as his adrenaline was flowing after the game, he already knew not to say anything that would make its way onto a bulletin board.
That’s a big part of Super Bowl week — not putting one’s foot in one’s mouth. Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens did that eight years ago when he said Seattle was going to spoil Detroit native and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis’ homecoming. He fired up the Steelers, and he was wrong. Last year, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver didn’t anger the opponent, but rather the general public when he made homophobic remarks. That wound up being an unnecessary storyline with which the Niners had to deal.
And for those who say it’s not about the talking and only what happens between the lines, just check in with any coach who has taken his team to the Super Bowl in recent years. All of them have reminded their players not to say anything stupid that might cause a distraction or rile up their opponents.
All of them.
Carroll will surely provide the same reminder for his players in the coming days, but it should be noted he’s among the more lenient in that department. During a sit-down with me for FOX Sports 1 late in the regular season, he said he has told his players to be themselves and express their opinions. That’s a big part of the reason his players love playing for him. He’s not a tyrant when it comes to his media policies. And the way the Seahawks talk is how they play. It translates to the field. This game is very much a mental battle, and the Seattle players use the week and the meetings with reporters to jack themselves up. By Sunday, they’re the ones dictating the tempo.
So don’t expect Sherman and his teammates, particularly the ones on defense, to be shrinking violets on Media Day at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. They’ll be bold and they’ll be brash. But they won’t be stupid. Any yapping will be reserved for more celebratory postgame interviews, if they’re fortunate enough to participate in those.
Five quick takes on Super Bowl XLVIII
1.) The early word on Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (ribs) and cornerback Tony Carter (arm/concussion) is that both should be back and ready to play. X-rays revealed no fractures for Moreno. There’s always more to the story with rib injuries than just bone. Still, indications are he’ll be suited up for the biggest game he’s ever played in his home state — or anywhere, for that matter.
2.) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin never really had a shot to play in the NFC Championship Game after leaving twice in the divisional-round victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks were going to be careful with Harvin, even if his symptoms were mild. They expect him to play in the Super Bowl, sources have told FOX Sports. And while Seattle has gotten to this point without him, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have that added dimension on offense.
3.) The Patriots’ game plan against the Broncos was to sit back and force Manning to beat them with short throws and with checks to running plays. It worked well early on, though New England’s offensive struggles didn’t help its defense and neither did the loss of cornerback Aqib Talib. Don’t expect the Seahawks to be as passive. They’re an attacking defense. Their goal is to disrupt the quarterback with their stable of pass rushers. They will get after Manning, and they’re going to try to put him on his back as much as possible.
4) There will be no griping about the weather, barring blizzard-like conditions. The teams involved in the game are used to playing in the cold. We’re not talking about two teams from Florida. They’ll be fine.
5.) The matchup between the middle of the Seahawks’ offensive line and Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is going to be fascinating. Knighton has to weigh well over 350 pounds, even if he’s listed at 335. The Seahawks aren’t beefy up the middle on offense. Center Max Unger is listed at 305 pounds. Guard J.R. Sweezy is listed at 298 pounds. Can they handle Knighton? And speaking of Knighton, who terrorized the Patriots on Sunday, his signing went relatively unnoticed on a national scale because Wes Welker was signing in Denver, Danny Amendola was headed to New England and Steven Jackson was on his way to join the Atlanta Falcons. Few noticed Denver’s addition of Knighton, who was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars for his first four seasons. Well, now they’ve noticed.