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Sherman speaks at length about “villian” and “thug” labels

AP

The man who first achieved widespread notice by getting in the face of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has reached a level of attention and notoriety that is rare in the sport of football — especially for someone who plays defense.  Not since William “Refrigerator” Perry has a guy who rarely touches the football experienced so much scrutiny and discussion and analysis.

But that’s the position Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman currently occupies.  We’ve already heard plenty from him, via a wave of one-on-one interviews, and we’ll be hearing even more as the Super Bowl approaches.  Earlier this week, defensive end Cliff Avril was asked during a visit to Pro Football Talk on NBCSN to identify the Seahawks player other than Sherman who’ll be talking the most; Avril laughed and said, “Probably just Richard.”

Based on Wednesday’s press conference, Richard likely will be saying some interesting, inspiring, and thought-provoking things.  He occupies for the next week-and-a-half an uncommon platform, and plenty of children will see him and hear him and learn about his background and acquire hope that they too can will their way to a better life.

“I really hope it resonates a little more with them because there are no limits to what you can do,” Sherman said Wednesday.  “I think regardless of how bizarre my story gets at times, especially in times like this, it’s still remarkable how a kid from Compton, a kid from humble beginnings, and the story can resonate from any kid coming from humble beginnings.  Whatever beginnings you come from just understand that your circumstances don’t dictate your future.  Your circumstances don’t control your limits.  You’re limitless, you’re a limitless person, you’re limitless by your faith, your abilities, your trust in yourself, your hard work, you can do as much as you want to do.  If you go to school and get good grades and work as hard as you can, if you don’t have the materials, the school books, the things like that, people can help you with that.  There will always be people out there that want to help kids like that, and I’m trying to help as many as I can.  But to not go out there and work as hard as you can and give yourself the best possible chance to be successful you’re doing yourself a disservice.  That’s really what I want the kids to know.”

It’s hard to paint a guy who has that specific agenda as a “villain” or a “thug,” but Star Wars wouldn’t have been nearly as popular without Darth Vader — and so as sports fans we’re always looking for circumstances that transcend the notion of team vs. team to become the timeless struggle of good vs. evil.

The best villains embrace the role.  Sherman doesn’t.

“I don’t think I’m a villain,” Sherman said.  “I always say the old cliché, don’t judge a book by its cover, but they’re judging a book by its cover, they’re judging me off of the football field, on the football during a game, right after a game, and they’re not judging me off of who I am.  Now if I had got arrested ten times, or committed all of these crimes, or got suspended for fighting off of the field and all of that, then I could accept being a villain, but I’ve done nothing villainous.”

He’s right.  Sherman’s only missteps have come when expressing himself in a way that, regardless of content, lacks the charisma of some of the men whose names he mentioned on Wednesday — Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin.  Each said outlandish things in their day (and a couple of them still do).  But they delivered strong messages in a way that was charming and engaging; for Sherman, who studied communications at Stanford, that’s currently his biggest challenge.

The strongest message Sherman delivered on Wednesday comes from his interpretation of the term “thug,” a word that causes him during a new Beats commercial to turn away from a throng of reporters and put on the headphones he’s being paid to help sell.

“The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the ‘N’ word nowadays,” Sherman said.  “It’s like everyone else says the ‘N’ word, and then they say ‘thug’ and they’re like, ‘Oh that’s fine.’ That’s where it kind of takes me back, and it’s kind of disappointing because they know.  What’s the definition of a thug really?  Can a guy on a football field just talking to people, maybe I’m talking loudly or doing something, talking like I’m not supposed to.  There was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey, they just threw their sticks aside and started fighting.  I saw that and said, ‘Ah, man I’m the thug. What’s going on here? Jeez.’ So I’m really disappointed in being called a thug.”

Sherman isn’t a thug; at times, however, he can come off as a bully.  That’s what Sherman’s brand of trash talk really is, whether it’s directed in hot blood to Michael Crabtree or the Vikings receivers, or in cold blood to Skip Bayless.

The problem for Sherman is that flashes of what seems to be bullying will overshadow the far more important example he’s trying to set for kids.  The other problem is that, as he inspires kids to overcome adversity, he’s also showing them that, once they do, it’s OK to shout at and belittle others who haven’t risen to the same level.

Like those of us far older than 25, Sherman is still a work in progress, capable of growing and changing and evolving.  He’ll likely learn as much about himself over the next 10 days as we learn about him.  In the end, maybe we’ll all be better off for the experience.

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Constructing the dream offensive line

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Former Giants tackle and two-time Super Bowl champion David Diehl joined PFT Live on Tuesday for a full hour. Among the segments was an effort to construct the dream offensive line, with a fantasy draft format.

We picked one lineman after another until we each had a tackle-to-tackle unit of five players in whom we’d entrust the health and safety of a quarterback and running backs.

To see and hear what we had to say on the issue, check out the video and feel free to tell us which guy came up with the better dream offensive line. Especially if you think I did.

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Seahawks looking at Austin Davis, along with Colin Kaepernick

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If the Seahawks want to portray this as just another offseason tire-kicking, they needed to roll someone other than Colin Kaepernick into town.

Thus, they’ll have at least one other veteran quarterback come in to audition.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Seahawks are also bringing in Austin Davis for a workout today.

Davis was most recently with the Broncos, hanging around as a third option behind Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. He has also spent time with the Browns and Rams.

The Seahawks have insisted they’re looking at all available options, and have previously mentioned Robert Griffin III as one.

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Rick Spielman: We’ll take it a day at a time with Teddy Bridgewater

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The Vikings released video of Teddy Bridgewater taking snaps, dropping back and throwing passes during Tuesday’s practice, but they still aren’t ready to talk about when Bridgewater may be able to take on a full workload after last year’s knee injury.

General Manager Rick Spielman met with the media on Wednesday and said that the team will “take it a day at a time” with Bridgewater while adding that the quarterback hasn’t been cleared for full practices at this point. Spielman declined to comment on when that might happen and said it was “still the unknown” whether he’ll play in 2017, but acknowledged that it’s “very encouraging” to see Bridgewater doing things on the field.

“Very limited in what he’s able to do at this point, but it’s progress,” Spielman said.

Bridgewater is not at Wednesday’s practice for a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment and Spielman said the release of the video from Tuesday’s closed practice was partly because the media wouldn’t be able to see him working. If all goes well at the doctor and the progress continues, it shouldn’t be too long before they get that opportunity and the Vikings have to make a call about when he moves to the next step of his football work.

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Pro Bowl is staying in Orlando for another year

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Players hoping for free trips to Hawaii are going to continue to be disappointed.

The NFL announced that this year’s Pro Bowl would return to Orlando, after last year’s successful debut there last year.

The all-star game will be held in Camping World Stadium on Jan. 28, and will be broadcast by ESPN and simulcast on ABC, making it the first time it has aired on both cable and broadcast networks.

(While it’s become a silly game full of alternates, people still watch it.)

They will again play with the more familiar AFC vs. NFC format, after realizing previous contrived efforts to gin up interest didn’t work.

It will be interesting to see if playing in a less-than-glamorous destination will cause more and more players to skip the event, but the league was apparently content with last year’s experience.

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Titans sign fifth-rounder Jayon Brown

AP

The Titans signed first-round cornerback Adoree’ Jackson on Tuesday and they got another one of their draft picks under contract on Wednesday.

Linebacker Jayon Brown has agreed to a four-year deal with the team. Brown, a fifth-round pick, is the seventh player in the draft class to sign a deal.

Brown made 21 starts at UCLA and took over for Myles Jack in the middle of the defense last season. He led the Pac-12 in tackles and intercepted three passes on his way to first-team all-conference honors.

Brown will join college teammate Aaron Wallace in Tennessee’s linebacking corps and will also be reunited with Lou Spanos, who was UCLA’s defensive coordinator in his freshman year before moving on to become the Titans’ linebackers coach.

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Bills cut Cyrus Kouandjio to make room for Rod Streater

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As it turns out, being found pantsless and disoriented in a field wasn’t the worst thing to happen to Cyrus Kouandjio in Buffalo this offseason.

The Bills announced they released the former second-round pick, as part of a pair of roster moves.

They also signed tight end Wes Saxton and wide receiver Rod Streater, and also released quarterback Josh Woodrum.

Streater adds some depth to their receiving corps. He caught 60 passes for the Raiders in 2013, but hasn’t had much of an impact since. He caught just 28 passes the last three seasons.

Kouandjio, the tackle from Alabama, was coming off a hip injury and had an up-and-down career with the Bills. He started just seven games in three seasons, hardly what they expected from the 44th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

But the strange part was an incident in April, when he was found by police in a partial state of dress and behaving erratically after climbing over an electric fence. He was held for observation but wasn’t arrested, and little more has been said about the incident.

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Report: Matt Jones skipping OTAs

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There hasn’t been much sign that running back Matt Jones is in the Redskins’ plans for the 2017 season and it appears he won’t be in the picture at all during Organized Team Activities.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Jones will not be attending OTAs this year.

Jones started the first seven games of the year and ran for 460 yards on 99 carries, but didn’t play in the final nine games of the year. Rob Kelley took over as the lead back. Chris Thompson returns as the third-down back and Samaje Perine was drafted in the fourth round to give the team another reason to keep Jones out of the rotation.

Rapoport reported during the draft that Washington was shopping Jones in a trade, although no one bit on a player who finished last season as a regular on the inactive list. A trade remains a possibility, although teams may prefer to wait for what seems like an inevitable parting of the ways rather than giving up anything in compensation.

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Dre Kirkpatrick broke his hand in “freak accident”

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The Bengals were back on the field yesterday, but cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was a surprise addition to the injured players watching.

According to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kirkpatrick was on the sidelines with a cast on his right hand.

Kirkpatrick said he broke his hand in a “freak accident,” and that he’d be back in action in a few weeks.

He didn’t elaborate on the accident (though he better hope he wasn’t doing anything scandalous like dancing), and coach Marvin Lewis said there was no real timetable for him.

Kirkpatrick signed a five-year, $52.5 million contract extension this offseason. In his place, the Bengals used Darqueze Dennard outside with the starters.

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Mike Williams missing time with back injury

AP

The Chargers got their first-round pick signed a lot quicker than they did last year, but wide receiver Mike Williams may not wind up doing too much work during the team’s offseason program.

Williams hurt his back during the team’s rookie minicamp and has yet to return to the field. Coach Anthony Lynn said Tuesday that he’s hopeful that Williams can return to action in the near future because he’s missing out on reps that he needs to be successful during his rookie season.

“I’d like to see him out there next week because he’s getting behind right now, and we’ve got to get him back out on the field,” Lynn said, via ESPN.com. “If he wasn’t a rookie it would be different. But he has so much to learn, and some of this you can only learn on the field.”

With Dontrelle Inman recovering from core muscle surgery, Williams’ absence leaves the Chargers without a couple of wide receivers as they work through OTAs.

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Coaching hire rule change gets tabled

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On Tuesday, the NFL took care of several items of business that had fallen in the cracks during the annual league meeting in March when: (1) the owners quickly approved the relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas; and (2) got the hell out of town before anyone could realize the potential long-term implications of what they had just done. That left plenty of old business that needed to be addressed on Tuesday in Chicago.

One item of old business will continue to be an item of old business.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, owners tabled (again) the question of whether teams may hire as head coaches assistant coaches whose teams are still playing in the postseason. The issue, though presented in some circles as new news on Tuesday, first emerged when the Competition Committee proposed to owners that the change be made. The issue did not make it to a vote in March.

The reason for the delay isn’t clear. Most agree that the change is needed, given that it sometimes shuts out viable candidates when teams choose not to wait possibly until February to make a hire. Also, when a team does wait, the name of the eventual hire becomes the worst-kept secret in the NFL.

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Insult to injury: Derek Newton takes pay cut

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It’s bad enough that Texans right tackle Derek Newton’s not going to play this year after a traumatic double knee injury, but now he’s going to make a fraction of what he was expecting.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Newton has restructured his contract, carving into the base salaries of $4.75 million per year he was scheduled to make the next three seasons.

The Texans have already shut Newton down for the season, after he tore both patellar tendons last fall.

Newton will no make a guaranteed $1.75 million this year and non-guaranteed base salaries of $2.25 million and $2 million in 2018 and 2019. He also has a $500,000 roster bonus this year and in 2018, and $2 million in per-game active roster bonuses in 2018 and another $1 million total in per-game bonuses in 2019.

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Shane Vereen: The best overtime is college football overtime

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A day after the NFL shortened overtime from 15 minutes to 10, Giants running back Shane Vereen said he’d prefer a much more radical change: College overtime.

Vereen said on PFT Live that the college system, in which teams take turns starting possessions from the 25-yard line, is a better format than the modified sudden death format that the NFL uses.

“My favorite overtime is college football,” Vereen said. “Line the ball up at the 25, give each team a chance to go at it, then after the second overtime you have to go for two. I love watching college football overtime. It usually doesn’t take too long. The drives usually aren’t that long. And it’s still exciting. Overtime that’s long and drawn out doesn’t necessarily add to the excitement of the game. If anything it just adds more drives, more punts.”

Vereen says he’s never been involved in a tie game and hopes he never will be. The league’s new overtime rule makes it more likely that he’ll play in a tie this season.

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Packers safety can’t drive 55, but can double it

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The Packers wanted to add some speed to their secondary this offseason. This probably isn’t what they had in mind.

According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Packers safety Jermaine Whitehead was cited for doing 110 mph on Interstate 43, with three teammates in the car.

Whitehead was stopped at 3:39 a.m. on May 19, while driving in a 70 mph zone between Milwaukee and Sheboygan. When the officer stopped him, he said he needed to be at Lambeau Field in a few hours for workouts.

“Jermaine originally said he was going 75 to 80 when I asked him how fast he was driving,” deputy sheriff Chad Baumann wrote in the incident report. “I told him his speed (110 mph) and the fact he was passing a semi at a high rate of speed. He did not contest this speed.”

Whitehead played in two games for the Packers last year, spending most of the year on the practice squad.

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Jordan Matthews unfazed by trade speculation

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The Eagles addressed the wide receiver position by signing Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery as free agents this offseason and there was conjecture that they may have more moves in mind.

There was talk about the possibility of a trade involving Jordan Matthews at various points over the last few months, but he remains in Philadelphia with May coming to an end. Matthews was asked about the trade chatter on Tuesday and he said he didn’t talk to anyone from the team about it, saying that “whatever happens is going to end up happening” and that he’s not going to be affected by what might have been said in conversations with other teams.

“That’s fake news. Alternative facts,” Matthews said, via Philly.com. “I don’t really care about that stuff, bro. I feel like it’s the NFL — everybody has a price. Those talks, they happen. It really doesn’t faze me in any way.”

Matthews is heading into the final year of his contract and could be moving on come the end of the season even if he isn’t traded. If that’s the case, the Eagles receiving corps could get overhauled again as Jeffery is on a one-year deal and Smith’s three-year pact can be dissolved rather easily after the 2017 season.

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David Quessenberry participating in OTAs after finishing chemo

AP

David Quessenberry has spent most of the last three years focused on battling lymphoma, but he had his final round of chemotherapy in April and that’s allowed him to get back to other things.

Among the top items on that list would be his career as an offensive lineman for the Texans and Quessenberry has taken a big step toward a full return to that life. Quessenberry was on the field with the team as they opened up Organized Team Activities this week.

Quessenberry was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in June 2014 and has spent the last three seasons on the non-football illness list while receiving treatment. That left Quessenberry to say in April that he’s in “uncharted territory” while discussing his attempt to resume his playing career.

There’s a long way to go from a May practice to a September roster spot, but we’re not putting anything past a guy who has overcome as much as Quessenberry has to just get on the practice field in the first place.

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