Sherman predictably has tried to downplay the reality that Gruden committed a clear violation of the rules regarding the things that can be said about, and to, a player under contract with another team.
“All of this sports is just a big freakin’ reality TV show, as you know,” Sherman said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “But I think there’s legitimate interest. They have a good team. It’s going to be a conversation. There will be a conversation with a few teams and I’ll make the decision that’s best for me and my family, and off we go.”
Fueling Sherman’s belief that there’s interest is, obviously, the fact that Gruden (drum roll) said so.
“Richard Sherman, if you are a free agent, which there is a rumor you are, we are looking for an alpha presence in our secondary,” Gruden said on a podcast with Cris Collinsworth and Sherman. “If you’re available and interested, maybe you and I can get together at some point off air.”
The rules are clear: “Any public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media, is a violation of this Anti-Tampering Policy.”
There’s no “joking” or “kidding” or “podcast host” or “big freakin’ reality TV show” exception to the rule. Gruden, who has been in and around the NFL for nearly 30 years, knows or should know the rules. He chose to disregard them.
If the rule won’t be applied in this specific case, the rule has no meaning. Indeed, nearly five years ago, the Chiefs lost a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick because Chiefs coach Andy Reid spoke directly to receiver Jeremy Maclin during the legal tampering window, which allows team to negotiate with agents but not to talk to the players they represent.
Here, Gruden spoke directly with Sherman weeks before the start of free agency. Gruden communicated his interest directly to Sherman. The fact that it happened on a podcast doesn’t excuse it. If anything, Gruden should have been extra careful when agreeing to appear on a podcast featuring a player who is under contract with another team and who is poised to become a free agent.
This isn’t Sherman’s fault. It’s not Collinsworth’s fault. It’s Gruden’s fault. And if the Raiders don’t lose a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick over this, the Chiefs should demand that they get theirs back.