I was hard on the Bucs for considering signing Richard Sherman back when it was rumored, and, probably, a touch unfair. Perhaps I was too focused on the Bucs and the feeling they’re giving off of getting away with anything now after signing Antonio Brown last season, and every observer thinking it was OK because Tom Brady gave it his approval. I’ve always liked Sherman, as he’s been one of the NFL’s most thoughtful players, unafraid to say what was on his mind and not slather everything in cliches.
Sherman certainly had a scary incident over the summer — scary for his family he was terrorizing. We still don’t really know that much, and very well may never. While most of the coverage of Sherman’s official signing centered on being called by Brady in the media’s never-ending quest to make Brady not just a really good QB but some sort of shaman, the real story should be what Sherman said about his arrest and the aftermath.
“It led to some really positive changes — some help, some therapies, some tools that I didn’t have before — to address some things that you kind of let stack up in your mind,” he said. “You never have time to address them. It’s not the right moment. It’s not the right place in your life to deal with these emotions and feelings.
“It really forced me to step back and go ask for help and get the help I need and to not be afraid, to be proud to ask. In that, it’s been remarkable how many other people have said they had the same issue. Because you always feel like you’re alone. You always feel like you’re the only one dealing with this.
“At least in the Black community — it’s one of those things that you’re never taught to seek counsel, to seek help. You always feel like, ‘Hey man, I’ll deal with it, tough it out, let’s get to the next play.’ In football terms, ‘Let’s get to the next play, next play, next play.’ It’s like, ‘You give up a touchdown? Like forget about it, I can get an interception. The same kind of holds true in life. If something terrible or tragic happens in life, you never really address it. You’re just like, ‘I have to get better and keep pushing towards my dreams. I can’t deal with that right now.’”
This isn’t stuff we haven’t heard before, but it’s about as honest and reflective as we have. There is a larger issue in football, and sports, about players refusing to admit vulnerability and weakness, and failing to address it only making things worse until it violently opens. Sherman goes on to talk about the communication he’s had with others who have been in the same spot, and his desire to be a symbol for those suffering as he, as well as a pivot point for change.
I hope he does, and the Sherman before at least seemed like the aware type to be that guy. Who knows now. We don’t know what help he got, what due diligence the Bucs actually did, how the case will wrap up. All of that is not something Sherman is going to divulge. Given the way Sherman has been in the past, I’m hesitant to dismiss it as the usual drivel that you get from most athletes who get arrested for this kind of crime, though I wouldn’t be shocked.
But those words certainly are right, and if Sherman can be something of a catalyst for the league and teams to take things like this more seriously, so much the better. I won’t say I’m optimistic, but I don’t want to be a cynic about it either.