Seahawks give Richard Sherman millions of reasons to smile

 The Seahawks wrapped up another member of their Legion of Boom secondary on Wednesday when Richard Sherman signed a contract extension that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

temp1DT_IMG_6452--nfl_mezz_1280_1024The smile onRichard Sherman’s face said it all.Not the one that the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback flashed on numerous occasions Wednesday while seated between coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider at the news conference to announce Sherman’s contract extension. This smile came moments earlier, when Sherman signed the four-year extension that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.It was the kind of smile that showed just far Sherman has come from that kid wearing hand-me-downs in Compton, Calif., to the best player on the planet at his position – with the financial security that comes with a contract to match his status.
“I don’t think you could ever plan this as part of any journey, it’s kind of fairytale ending – or fairytale beginning,” said Sherman, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011 who has become the best – and most productive – cornerback in the NFL over the past three seasons.“So I don’t think this part was ever planned. This is one of those things you have to accept and appreciate. But still have the same hunger and you have to put it aside. Just like the Super Bowl win. We won a Super Bowl, but you have to put it aside and understand it for what it is. But also get back to duty.”

As Sherman walked toward the stage in the auditorium at Virginia Mason Athletic Center – with his parents, Beverly and Kevin; his brother, Branton; his girlfriend, Ashley; and Schneider and Carroll – the only thing missing was John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” blaring from the sound system.That’s “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” as in the Legion of Boom – the nickname earned by the secondary that drives a Seahawks defense which led the NFL in average points and yards allowed last season.Sherman, 26, thanked the All-Pro safety tandem ofEarl ThomasandKam Chancellor, among others, offering, “I’d like to thank Kam and Earl, for being like brothers to me since we’ve been here – the entire time. They’re just like family to me. We go through battles together, week in and week out. We go through some battles in the offseason, which nobody sees. Those dudes are the reason I’m sitting up here today. Those dudes – the effort they bring, the way they play; the tenacity Earl brings every day, the tenacity Kam brings on the field every second – I’d like to say I appreciate them.“When you’re around Kam and Earl, you never want to leave them. It’s a family, and you never want to leave the family.”But that’s also “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” as in the way the Seahawks have gone about retaining four of the key elements to the team’s success under Carroll that hit the highest of notes with a Super Bowl championship in February.
Last year, it was Chancellor who signed a contract extension. Last month, it was Carroll. Last week, it was Thomas. Wednesday, it was Sherman.Just call it taking care of business, Seahawks style.“Our goals for this offseason were to try to take care of our own,” Schneider said. “We treaded lightly in free agency to be able to take care of our own guys. We’re just extremely proud that this day has come.”

And if you’re worried about money removing – or even eroding – Sherman’s Mount Rainier-sized chip-on-his-shoulder motivation, well, you don’t know what makes this guy tick.

During the news conference, he rattled through the negative scouting reports that dogged him into the third day of the NFL Draft in 2011.

“I always read, ‘Richard Sherman will have the capabilities to be a backup corner in this league. He’s stiff-hipped. He’s not fast. He doesn’t accelerate. He doesn’t have natural cover instincts. He doesn’t have ball skills,’ ” Sherman said. “Those things are things I’ll always keep.”

Sherman also remembers as if it was yesterday that 23 cornerbacks were selected ahead of him in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“Nothing will erase that,” he said. “Nothing will erase that chip. Nothing will erase that mentality. And that’s something I’ll always keep. It keeps me hungry. It keeps me attacking. It keeps me angry.”

Afterward, while talking to reporters who cover the team, Sherman provided his game plan for improvement as the Seahawks prepare to defend the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

“There’s more picks to get,” said Sherman, who led the NFL with eight interceptions last season and has a league-leading 20 since stepping into the lineup as a third-option injury replacement midway through his rookie season.

“I dropped about five of them last year, so I’ve got to catch more. I missed a few tackles, so that’s always an area of emphasis – being able to be more involved in the run game, play recognition. The off technique when people are in nasty splits is always something we’ve got to stay focused on because that’s how teams are going to attack us these days.”

From overlooked to impossible to overlook, it’s a big part of what makes Sherman’s version of the American Dream so satisfying – and deserved.

“If you believe in faith, hard work, parental guidance and education, this is your guy for your kids to look up to and to strive to be,” Schneider said. “This is a guy who’s been raised right and has worked his tail off to be where he is right now.

“This is truly a great American story right here and I think Richard is going to continue to keep writing this for the rest of his football career and then into the future we have no idea how far this is going to go for this young man.”

Rodgers family anxiously awaits draft day

CHARLOTTE – One might assume Panthers special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers steered his son to the NFL.

After all, they share the same name and played college football at the same school.

But Rodgers Sr. was just as surprised as everyone else when his son – a junior tight end at California – called to say he wanted to declare for the 2014 NFL Draft.California Utah Football

“I never pushed him to do one thing or the other,” Rodgers Sr. said. “It’s what he wanted, and I said, ‘OK, you better start working.’”

Rodgers II played in 35 games and recorded 59 receptions for 896 yards and two touchdowns during his three seasons.

When head coach Sonny Dykes took over the Bears’ program in 2013, Rodgers II lost weight and played wide receiver in the new scheme.

“I knew the system he was in and I wasn’t sure that system was preparing him for the NFL, only because he’s a true tight end,” Rodgers Sr. explained. “He wanted to move on. He’s always been this way. He’s a self-starter and he knows what he wants.

“Quite frankly, he thinks he can play at this level and do well. Who am I to argue with him?”

Rodgers Sr. won’t argue with his NFL-bound son about his decision to forego his senior season, but he will provide an honest assessment of his game.

“I evaluate his tape, because I’m his dad. He doesn’t have a choice in that regard,” Rodgers Sr. said smiling. “He uses me as a resource. When we talked, it wasn’t father-to-son; it was more like coach-to-player. Here’s where your shortcomings are, and this is what you need to work on if you want to play in this league.”
That advice is valuable and appreciated.
“Having a dad that’s been in the business and knows his way around is definitely helpful,” Rodgers II said. “He can give me little bits of advice and things like that and things that go on in interviews because he’s been there.”

Rodgers II’s strengths are obvious. He possesses tremendous size (6-4, 257 pounds), and the former high school basketball player boasts impressive athleticism.

“He’s in that mold of athletic tight ends,” Rodgers Sr. said. “And he is girthy enough that he can be an in-line guy and block somebody if he learns it.”

That’s the challenge facing Rodgers II. He must prove he can improve as an in-line blocker.

“That’s the biggest thing I need to work on, because I just haven’t had that much experience with it,” Rodgers II said.

Added his father: “Right now, that’s the biggest question. He’s not the end-of-the-line tight end that can block (defensive end) Greg Hardy, for example.

“He has the potential to be bigger and stronger. He hasn’t hit his plateau. The tools he has are there. It’s just a matter of putting them to use.”

Predictably, Rodgers Sr. has spoken briefly with Panthers scouts about his son, gaining some additional insight as to how he’s viewed around the league.

“I don’t bug them. But those guys talk, and we talk. And they aren’t oblivious to the fact that he’s my son,” Rodgers Sr. said. “They all think he’s a good football player and that he can do some things. It’s just a matter of where he fits.

“He’s been in the conversation here, and I’m sure he’s going to be in the conversation everywhere. He’s unique.”
Draft projections for Rodgers II are wide-ranging, and Rodgers Sr. knows as well as anyone how unpredictable the process can be.

“Like I told him, we have to look at this thing realistically,” Rodgers Sr. said. “He could go anywhere from the third round to undrafted.”

It will be a “surreal” moment for Rodgers Sr. when and if he sees his son’s name flash across the screen during the draft.

Rodgers Sr. would then excuse himself from the Panthers draft room to make a phone call.

“We’re excited as a family,” Rodgers Sr. said. “We’re anxious to see what happens.”

Stressing Draft’s Third Day

tempGiants--nfl_mezz_1280_1024Players that have to wait until the fourth round or later can feel the frustration

When Jonathan Dwyer left Georgia Tech for the NFL draft in 2010, he joined the first class of players ushering in a newly-expanded three-day format.

Previously, the event held its first three rounds on Saturday and the final four on Sunday. As is the custom now, the 2010 draft began with the first round on Thursday, followed by two rounds on Friday and the final four on Saturday.

But what did Dwyer care? The star running back expected to go by the third round at the latest, with the slight possibility of sneaking into the first round. Either way, by the third day he figured to be worry-free and gainfully employed.

For the first round, Dwyer invited over only close friends and family, which turned out to be a wise decision when his name wasn’t called. On Day 2, it seemed like the whole neighborhood turned out, ready to celebrate the realization of his dream. But as the hours ticked on, Dwyer was never selected.

“The first day it didn’t really bother me because it was just a toss-up,” Dwyer said. “To sit there and wait the second

day, you wait and
wait and you don’t get picked – you get frustrated. Your family is sitting there asking questions: ‘What’s going on?’”

So began one of the longer nights of Dwyer’s life. Even though many players had dropped in past drafts, at least there was a resolution in two days. As he went to bed, Dwyer was still in limbo.

“You feel low as dirt,” Dwyer said. “That’s probably one of the times I was actually scared. This was my dream, and to sit there and not know what’s going to happen. … Usually you’re so in control of your life and what you get to do, where you get to go. That’s the first time I wasn’t in control of my decisions, so all you do is sit there and pray and try to be as calm as possible.”

Dwyer was finally picked on Day 3, but not until the sixth round by the Steelers. In the ensuing years, several other Cardinals went through the same harrowing process.

Running back Andre Ellington ran the gamut of emotions during his ordeal in 2013. He was relaxed during the first round, but a nervous wreck on Day 2. He doubted himself that night, then felt recharged the next morning.

“On that third day, I woke up like it was game day,” Ellington said. “I got a little anxious, but I was more motivated than anything. I went into it believing I was going to get drafted on that day.”

Ellington was at peace with the process by the time he was selected. After intently watching the choices early on, he spent the latter portion of the draft horsing around with his nieces. He wasn’t in the room when the Cardinals took him in the sixth round.

“Everybody’s yelling, like, ‘Your phone’s ringing!’” Ellington said. “I went back and got my phone and it was Arizona.”

Stepfan Taylor knew he wouldn’t be a first-round pick, but felt slighted as Day 2 came and went without a destination. While Taylor was quick to point out how fortunate he feels to be on a roster, the three-day wait motivates him to this day.

“It’s when that chip definitely starts building on your shoulder,” Taylor said. “You see the other running backs taken in front of you and the chip gets bigger. I was ready. I said, ‘I just need an opportunity. Once I get in, I’m making a team.’”

The players projected to be late-round picks or undrafted free agents have it easier early on. While Dwyer had high hopes from the first round, offensive tackle Nate Potter watched the first two days comfortably.

In fact, Potter – who was taken by the Cardinals in the seventh round of the 2012 draft — was realistic all the way through. He knew his only real shot was to get selected on the final day, and invited a small circle to watch the Saturday proceedings with him.

“I didn’t want to have a huge thing and go undrafted,” Potter said. “That’s not cool.”

While the three days felt like forever to some of those picked in the final four rounds, the players said the stress dissipated the moment their names were called. Although Dwyer’s selection came later than expected, everyone in his support group returned on Saturday, and they celebrated with a cookout.

“By the way my family and I reacted, you would have thought I was the first overall pick,” Dwyer said. “Finally, we could enjoy ourselves.”

Since the NFL draft continues to be a ratings bonanza, commissioner Roger Goodell recently spoke of potential expansion to a fourth day. For the football diehards, it would be more time to analyze and dream. For the draft picks, it would be another day of agony.

“A fourth day might be a little bit too much for a player,” Taylor said. “You just want to know, get it over with and get back to work.”

What Experts Said after 49ers Drafted Kaepernick

Soon after the San Francisco 49ers make their first pick in next week’s NFL Draft, league experts will start giving their analysis.

Not all of it will prove to be true.

Looking back on the 49ers second-round selection of quarterback Colin Kaepernick this time three years ago, however, the consensus seemed to be on point.

Kaepernick, whom general manager Trent Baalke traded up nine spots to grab on April 28, 2011, has enjoyed three strong seasons to start his career, guiding San Francisco the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in ’13. He’s scored 40 touchdowns (nine rushing, 31 passing*) in 32 regular season games.

RELATED: What’d They Say about Reid?

Let’s look back at what was said in the minutes and hours after he became a 49er.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.: “Jim Harbaugh found a quarterback he can develop with Kaepernick in Round 2, but even with the run on quarterbacks, I saw that as a reach. There’s a lot of development needed.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Kaepernick needs work and is a long way away, but with the right coaching he could be one of the steals of this draft.”

FoxSports.com’s Adam Caplan: “Kaepernick may wind up being the best player out of their draft class, but down the road.”

SI.com’s Peter King: “Will he become a good NFL quarterback? No one knows. But he’ll work at Harbaugh’s pace and give it everything he has.”
SI.com’s Kerry Byrne: “He has incredible athletic talents and put up great numbers on the ground and in the air at Nevada. Kaepernick could be a great value in the second round.”

The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows: “Kaepernick is full of potential. He’s tall, strong-armed and he scored 59 rushing touchdowns in four seasons at Nevada.”

temp_0083_JAC_TL_13--nfl_mezz_1280_1024SFGate.com’s Kevin Lynch: “What’s best about Kaepernick is his intangibles. You will hear a lot about his running ability and his strong arm, but what’s most impressive is his four fourth-quarter comebacks, including when he lead a drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game against unbeaten Boise State this year. The concerns about Kaepernick is his long release, which doesn’t seem to fit in to being a West Coast quarterback, and his running might also be seen as a detriment. Typically, running quarterbacks in the NFL get sacked often because they take their eyes off their receivers and look to run.”

Rotoworld.com’s Evan Silva: “Like the pick or not, Kaepernick is set up for success under quarterback guru Harbaugh.”

NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang: “Kaepernick possesses many of the attributes necessary toward becoming successful in the NFL. He has a rare combination of size, arm strength and mobility for the position and is intelligent and hard-working. His awkward throwing motion has drawn the ire of some, though the 49ers are obviously comfortable with it. Recognized for his development of Andrew Luck at Stanford, Harbaugh’s ability to cultivate Kaepernick will go a long way in determining both men’s success in the NFL.”

CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco: “Passing on Blaine Gabbert and then trading up to get Colin Kaepernick (was a questionable move). They will now be linked together in 49ers draft history… They better hope… Kaepernick is better than the QBs taken ahead of him. That was risky passing on a quarterback at No. 7.”

Huffington Post’s Jordan Schultz: “I thought San Francisco should have gone quarterback in the first round. But unlike the Cardinals, the 49ers did address the most glaring need right after that by acquiring Colin Kaepernick (pictured). The scrambling and uber-athletic Kaepernick is a project who ran the pistol offense at Nevada, but clearly new coach Jim Harbaugh feels comfortable developing him.”

Sporting News’ Clifton Brown: “They smartly traded up to get a quarterback. Problem is, he’s not ready to start right away. Maybe Blaine Gabbert would have been.”

Yahoo Sports’ Jason Cole: “The most impressive thing the 49ers did was not reach on a quarterback at that spot and instead waited until the second round to get Colin Kaepernick, who has just as much chance of being great as first-round quarterbacks Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder. The 49ers had to make a slight trade up to get Kaepernick, but that was perfectly acceptable.”

*This story has been corrected to reflect Kaepernick’s touchdown breakdown.