SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)A reinforcement has arrived for the 49ers” tired, banged-up defense.
Cornerback Richard Sherman confirmed he will play Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He missed last Sunday’s 29-22 loss to the Atlanta Falcons with a Grade 2 right hamstring strain, which is a partial tear, and it typically takes four to eight weeks to heal.
Sherman has missed just one game. He insists on playing this Saturday.
”I’ll be out there,” Sherman announced. ”There is no question. There’s nothing I need to show them. I’ve gone through practice. Today we had a full-speed practice. No tweaks, nothing to be concerned about on my end. We feel comfortable about it.”
Sherman injured his hamstring late in the fourth quarter of a 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 8, and had difficulty walking through the locker room after the game. But, this week during practice, he moved around the field with ease.
”If I can walk, I can play,” Sherman said. ”Now, if I ever felt I was a detriment to the team or couldn’t get to full speed or couldn’t function at a high level, I would sit my behind down, because then I’m not helping anybody. But, I’ve always felt that if I can be out there, I’m helping the team. Your body can make miraculous, incredible things happen if your brain can convince it to make it happen. I realized that at a young age.”
Sherman’s theory has limits, of course. He couldn’t play through a torn Achilles, which ended his 2017 season with the Seattle Seahawks, and limited his effectiveness in 2018 during his first season with the 49ers. But this season, he improved and earned his first Pro Bowl berth since 2016.
”His leadership skills have been unbelievable,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said about Sherman. ”He’s always had the smarts, always has been able to put himself in position, but the difference this year is that he has regained that step to make plays and close on the ball and do the different things he does. From a healing standpoint, he has come a long way and played really good football.”
Sherman’s statistics are fantastic. He has allowed just 240 receiving yards, and a passer rating of only 56.4 when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. And most of the catches he has allowed have gone for short gains.
”He is so smart with regards to understanding football and formations and when teams are going to take a shot on him,” Saleh said. ”Throughout his entire history, if you look at all the interceptions he’s had, I bet half of them have come when the quarterback tried to throw a deep ball on him, and he just goes and takes it.
”Sherman played wide receiver in college. His depth perception is unbelievable. I think teams have become scared to even go his way. And because of it, he kind of shuts off half the field. He can play more aggressively and know he’s not going to get challenged on every play.”
Even at 31-years-old with a surgically-repaired Achilles and a partially-torn hamstring, teams still fear Sherman. That’s why he said this Pro Bowl berth means more to him than his previous five.
”The hard work, perseverance, the hours I put in, everything came to fruition and I accomplished what I set out to accomplish,” Sherman said. ”Obviously, though, we have bigger goals.”