TAMPA, Fla. — Nine years after cornerback Richard Sherman infamously trolled quarterback Tom Brady with T-shirts that read “U mad bro?” after a 24-23 win over the New England Patriots, the two are now teammates as members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady played an integral role in recruiting Sherman. He reached out to Sherman before the Bucs’ front office did, while the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers were showing interest.
“He’s just a competitor. We have the same spirit in that regard,” said Sherman, 33, a three-time first-team All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLVIII champion.
“Anything that it takes to win, obsessed, a lot of what Kobe Bryant stood for — the late, great — and so you can appreciate that about each other. That’s what kind of attracted me to come. He’s the same kind of animal I am.”
The two texted over the years and always thought it would be fun to play together. He just needed his wife, Ashley’s, blessing.
“Once he calls, you better come or you’re gonna regret not coming, is what it seems like,” Sherman said. “She was right on board. She thought this was the best opportunity to do what I love and go play at a high level and have a chance at chasing a trophy.”
Sherman got on a cross-country flight from Seattle and landed in Tampa around 9:30 p.m. He was at the team facility before 6:30 the next morning for COVID-19 testing. He underwent a physical, signed his contract and by 10:50 was in full pads practicing with his new teammates.
“He was teaching us things, some pointers,” safety Jordan Whitehead said. “From the walk-throughs, he was teaching and asking us questions and giving us hints so it’s good to have him out there. … We told him, ‘We’re all young. We kinda need that leader.’ He came in today and he started giving us lots of tips, he was talking ball with us. He fits right in. It’s like he’s been here for a while.”
Instead of wearing his trademark No. 25, he’s wearing No. 5. His son, Rayden Sherman, was born Feb. 5, so it still works. But it’s a fresh start, in football and in turning the page on one of the most difficult chapters of his life.
Sherman was arrested July 15 in connection with an incident at the home of his wife’s parents in Redmond, Washington. He was charged with five misdemeanors, including two counts of domestic violence — criminal trespass in the second degree and malicious mischief in the third degree — as well as resisting arrest, driving while under the influence and reckless endangerment of roadway workers.
He pleaded not guilty to all five charges and is receiving counseling. He said in a statement on Twitter in July that he was “deeply remorseful” for his actions and “behaved in a manner I’m not proud of.”
Sherman has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Friday in Washington.
On Wednesday, Sherman called the incident — which included a 911 call from his wife saying Sherman was “drunk and belligerent” and threatening suicide — “regrettable.”
“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.'”
Sherman said he received a ton of messages from people who have experienced similar struggles. He said he feels like he has the right support system in place now.
“Just being in the public eye all the time — it’s not like I purposely put myself out there,” Sherman said. “In those situations, you can either take accountability and try to help as many people as you can through a bad situation, and turn it into a positive situation, or you can hide. And I chose not to hide.”
“I don’t think Richard needs any support system, but we have all that he needs,” coach Bruce Arians said. “So if he needs one — I’ve known Richard for a long, long time, 10, 11 years. … We all make mistakes.”
As for when he’ll play, Sherman said he believes he’ll need about a week to get ready. Cornerback Jamel Dean, who suffered a knee injury Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, did practice Wednesday, so the need to get Sherman out on the field might not be as pressing. The Bucs could be down only one starting cornerback Sunday in Sean Murphy-Bunting.
The biggest issue with his adjustment will be terminology. But Sherman is down to an ideal playing weight of 195 pounds.
“There’d be a bunch of guys hurt if he’s out there this week,” Arians said. “We’ll wait and see. … He’s got so much to learn and he hasn’t had pads on in so long. But he does know how to play the game.”
Wide receiver Mike Evans still feels like Sherman can play at a very high level. The two squared off most recently in 2019.
“I had some battles with him. He’s an all-time great player. Very, very smart player, one of the smartest players to ever play the game. I think he’s gonna help us a lot,” Evans said. “He’s still got it. One thing he’ll never lose is his mind.”
As far as if Brady is still mad, Sherman said the two exchanged jerseys four or five years ago. It’s sitting in a safe right now, because he didn’t feel comfortable framing it on a wall.
Brady wrote on it, “‘I’m still mad, bro,'” Sherman said. “He wrote it on the jersey.”
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