Richard Sherman should have brought a book.
The All-Pro Seattle cornerback was thoroughly avoided when his Seahawks beat the visiting Green Bay Packers, 36-16, in this season's Kickoff Opener. Sherman was the dreadlocked elephant in the room — the he-who-must-not-be-named, lurking on the left side of the defense — and he never saw a pass thrown in his direction.
Although his team was winning, and avoiding him was a sign of respect, Sherman felt irritation bubble up inside of him.
"On a scale of 1 to 10? 12," Sherman said Wednesday of his frustration level, giving new meaning to 12th man.
Seattle Coach Pete Carroll, whose team will host the Packers on Sunday in the NFC championship game, said it's "pretty rare" for a quarterback to go an entire game without throwing in the direction of a certain defensive back.
"Usually what would happen is if you have a brand-new player, a guy off the street that you had to play … that's where the ball will really go to one side more than stay away from the guy," Carroll said. "Very few players ever have that kind of factor where the ball just won't go there."
After that game, Carroll met with Sherman and gave him something of a pep talk.
Recalled Sherman: "He said, 'Don't get frustrated; this isn't going to be the only time it happens. Treat it as a sign of respect. Just stay locked in, continue to do your job, and we appreciate your contributions. Don't treat it like you're not adding anything to the team, you're not contributing.'
"Because that's kind of how you feel after a game like that, you feel like you haven't contributed anything. Everybody's like, 'Man, that's cool. Nobody threw to your side.' But if you're a player, you want to make plays in the game. You feel like you can help your team. You want the ball coming your way more."
For the most part, though, quarterbacks throw toward Sherman at their peril. He has 24 interceptions since coming into the NFL in 2011, the league's most by far during that span, with Chicago's Tim Jennings and Arizona's Patrick Peterson tied for second with 15.
In fact, Sherman's 24 picks rank second in the modern era for a player in his first four seasons, behind the 25 of Oakland's Lester Hayes (1977-80) and Dallas' Everson Walls (1981-84).
Packers Coach Mike McCarthy indicated this week that the Packers will try some different offensive strategies against the Seahawks this time, which isn't a surprise. That likely means occasionally lining up receiver Jordy Nelson on Sherman's side of the field, whereas Nelson stayed on the opposite side in the opener.
Rodgers said it's important to be aware of Sherman but "not scared of him."
"You have a ton of respect for him," the quarterback said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "Look at the numbers, they don't lie. Not a lot of guys catch passes on his side, and for the amount of time he's targeted, his interception totals are very impressive. You just have to play your game, but if he's locking his guy down, he's probably not going to get a lot of passes thrown his way."
The trick when he is being ignored, Sherman said, is to not allow his mind to wander, or to try to do too much to get involved in a play — thereby blowing his original assignment.
"You've got to resist the urge to gamble and try to force things to happen," he said. "I think that when I was younger, I used to do that a little more than I did now. Now I just do my job and let things happen that are going to happen."
And if he doesn't hear his name, he must be doing something right.