Throughout this spring, the 49ers loved what they saw of Richard Sherman as a mentor, leader and de facto assistant coach for the secondary.
Now, the Niners will get the chance to see if the former Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback can still play at a high level, too.
Sherman, at 30, is entering his eighth NFL season and coming off a serious injury to an Achilles’ tendon. If he’s healthy, it’s likely that Sherman still has a few more seasons as an elite corner. If the injury from last season limits him in training camp or takes away a half-step or more, it’s possible the former Stanford standout may not be the impact player he was in Seattle from 2011 through 2017 when he was a three-time, first-team All-Pro selection and a four-time Pro Bowler.
When the 49ers signed him this offseason, they obviously were wary, giving him a small base salary with multiple incentives that will pay off if Sherman is healthy and impactful. As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote Sunday: “Look no further than Sherman’s incentive-laden contract, which included just $3 million fully guaranteed at signing.”
At his best, Sherman has been terrific. His ability to deny production to even elite wide receivers in Seattle was one reason why the Seahawks defense was so dominant. Pro Football Focus noted this month that Sherman ranks No. 1 in passer rating allowed since he entered the league in 2011, at just 47.7, ahead of Casey Hayward (61.1), Darrelle Revis (63.0), Chris Harris Jr. (70.4) and Tim Jennings (70.7).
Yet recently, a story in Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback by Robert Klemko noted Sherman didn’t seem 100 percent physically at a “cornerback summit” he organized at Stanford.
Wrote Klemko: “Sherman has been busy rehabbing the torn Achilles’ tendon that sidelined him in early November and required surgery. He’s running at full speed, but walking with a slight limp after a full day’s workout at Stanford.”
That was almost a month and a half after Sherman posted a video on social media of him running at full speed. His caption on the post: “Getting there.”
The 49ers will find out which Sherman they are getting – the limping Sherman or the full-speed Sherman – when training camp opens this week.