Sherman respects Rodgers, wants to be challenged
Richard Sherman kept waiting, expecting he'd eventually get a pass thrown his way when the Green Bay Packers visited for the season opener.
The Seattle Seahawks' All-Pro cornerback never thought quarterback Aaron Rodgers would go a full game without challenging him. Instead, Rodgers passed to anyone but the receiver Sherman covered, throwing away from him much like a punter avoids kicking to a dangerous returner.
Only when the game ended, Sherman said, did he realize he'd have to wait until Week 2 to see a pass thrown his way.
"I never suspected that," Sherman said Wednesday. "I guess when it was over, but that's not something you think about during the game or something you just play every play like the ball's coming your way, and at the end of the day you let the chips fall where they may and what happens, happens."
Sherman briefly exchanged words with Rodgers, then walked off the field. Inside the locker room, frustration boiled over. Seattle may have beaten Green Bay, but it bothered Sherman to feel like he didn't contribute.
"On a scale of one to 10, 12," Sherman said when asked Wednesday how high his frustration peaked.
That's the question this week. Will Rodgers target whichever receiver Sherman covers Sunday? Getting tidbits about Green Bay's game plan is like uncovering matters of national security, so there's no way to know for sure until after kickoff.
But Rodgers hinted he may throw to both sides of the field Sunday.
"It just depends on who's open," Rodgers said. "It's always important to throw it to the right and throw it to the left a little bit."
In the opener, Green Bay matched then-No. 3 receiver Jarrett Boykin across Sherman. Rookie Davante Adams has since replaced Boykin, and he figures to get plenty of snaps across Sherman on Sunday.
But Green Bay could also challenge Sherman with one of its top two threats, Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb. Nelson said he hasn't thought much about a potential matchup.
"If we get matched up, yeah, obviously it would be a great challenge and a great opportunity," Nelson said, "but I'm not going to go out of my way to go over there or anything. We're just going to run our offense and do what we need to do to win the game."
Rodgers respects Sherman. He made that clear in the season opener. For Sherman, the feeling is mutual.
Sherman referenced Rodgers' consistency, his ability to play well in big games. Lately, he's also been impressed with Rodgers' toughness. He watched the Packers' win against the Cowboys. Sherman said Rodgers had a "phenomenal game," especially considering the quarterback's calf injury.
When asked Wednesday, Sherman said Rodgers is still a dangerous quarterback even with his strained calf.
"That was evident the last game," Sherman said. "In the last game, he puts that zip on the ball. He has quick wrist release anyway. He doesn't always have to drive through his throws to get them where he wants them. I think it takes away a little of his mobility. I think a few plays that aren't there, he's not able to just take them and get the 10 yards and first down, like he usually does when he's healthy.
"I think you saw that last week. There were a few opportunities he could have probably run for the first down, and he instead threw the ball, threw the football and still made a play out of it. I think it takes a little bit of his mobility, but he's still just as tough a ball player to play against."
Rodgers can also be tough for an opponents' psyche. Whether the strategy to throw away from Sherman was right or wrong, few quarterback would have the patience to stick to it for 60 minutes.
Sherman said he hasn't been challenged as much this season, something he's not thrilled about. He likes to play the game, enjoys being tested. Naturally, he also likes producing. After intercepting eight passes in both the 2012 and 2013 season, Sherman only picked off four this fall.
His coach predicted fewer opportunities after the season opener. Still frustrated in the locker room, Sherman said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll approached him. Carroll offered some much-needed perspective.
"He said, 'Don't get frustrated, this isn't going to be the only time it happens. Treat it as a sign of respect. Just stay locked in, continue to do your job, and we appreciate your contributions. Don't treat it like you're not adding anything to the eam, you're not contributing,'" Sherman said. "Because that's kind of how you feel after a game like that. You feel like you haven't contributed anything. Everybody's like, 'Man, that's cool, nobody threw to your side.' But if you're a player, you want to make plays in the game. You feel you can help your team, you want the ball coming your way more."
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