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Column: Richard Sherman vows to get help for uncharacteristic behavior

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman during Super Bowl LIV.
NFL free agent Richard Sherman faces five criminal charges after police said he drunkenly crashed his SUV in a construction zone and tried to break into his in-laws’ home.
(Gregory Payan / Associated Press)

The scenario was depressingly unsurprising. A professional athlete accused of being intoxicated and abandoning his crashed car, walking to the home of his in-laws, attempting to force his way inside, and fighting with police who ultimately needed to use a K-9 to subdue him.

What’s shocking is that the athlete was NFL cornerback Richard Sherman, widely revered as a team and community leader who played critical roles in guiding both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.

Throughout his decade-long NFL career, Sherman has rankled some people with his emotional play and outspoken comments, yet unquestionably has commanded respect throughout the league. His unlikely rise from Compton to Stanford — where he switched from wide receiver to defensive back — and from the fifth round of the 2012 draft to five-time All-Pro, took place while spending a lot of time and effort uplifting his community. It was the stuff of pro football lore.

He became a free agent this offseason, a man without a team for the first time, but there were no widely known hints that his personal life was on the verge of implosion. However, according to reports in the wake of his arrest, King County prosecutors and the sheriff obtained an “extreme risk protection order” for Sherman in February, barring him from having guns because a judge had determined he posed a danger to himself or others. Details of the case were sealed.

The Rams released new uniforms on Tuesday morning, featuring a white color scheme with blue and gold. The jersey is a throwback to L.A. glory days.

We do know the details police have provided about the Tuesday night incident. Sherman had threatened suicide, had consumed two bottles of hard alcohol NS was pepper-sprayed as he tried to force his way into the home in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, police said. The chilling 911 call of his wife, Ashley, is in the public domain.

But so much of this story remains fodder for interpretation and speculation. Did the incident stem from depression? Substance abuse? A brain injury? None of those? All three? Whichever, it’s undeniably a sad and troubling chapter in a storied career.

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After a hearing Thursday, Sherman was released from custody without bail and under orders that he not have contact with his father-in-law, use alcohol or nonprescription drugs, or possess a weapon. On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to five misdemeanor charges stemming from his arrest.

Colt Brennan was a star football player at Hawaii who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting before years of substance abuse problems cost him his life.

“I see Mr. Sherman as a pillar in this community,” Judge Fa’amomoi Masaniai said during Thursday’s hearing. “He’s a business owner, a husband, he’s a father. I’m going to release Sherman on his own promise to return to court.”

Sherman offered a few hints in his social media apology Friday, in which he made fleeting reference to unspecified problems he has encountered recently.

“I am deeply remorseful for my actions on Tuesday night,” he wrote. “I behaved in a manner I am not proud of. I have been dealing with some personal challenges over the last several months, but that is not an excuse for how I acted. … I appreciate all of the people who have reached out in support of me and my family, including our community here in Seattle. I am grateful to have such an amazing wife, family and support system to lean on during this time.”

Sherman rose to prominence as a bombastic playmaker in Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary, a particular strength of coach Pete Carroll’s championship teams. He’s the third member of that unit to run afoul of the law or encounter extreme life turbulence since those glory days.

In 2018, former Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner was sentenced to eight years in a California prison after pleading no contest to attempted murder and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a child. Prosecutors charged him with breaking into a former girlfriend’s home in La Verne, chasing and dragging her, then smothering her in a carpet while her two young children were present.

Last year, the Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of former Seahawks star Earl Thomas two days after the seven-time Pro Bowl safety got into an on-field altercation with teammate Chuck Clark. The Ravens, who had signed Thomas to a $10-million guaranteed salary, said his personal conduct had adversely affected the team.

The latest news surrounding Sherman is among the NFL’s saddest, most disturbing — and most shocking — turn of events this year.

“The importance of mental and emotional health is extremely real,” he said in his statement, “and I vow to get the help I need.”


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