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Richard Sherman winning the PR battle, orchestrated or not

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

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NEW YORK -- If no press is bad press, then Richard Sherman's the best publicist in the world. A year removed from being someone that was literally unidentifiable to the casual football fan, Sherman's the face of Super Bowl XLVIII and was easily the hottest name at 2014's Media Day. Credit him, too, for being savvy enough to craft this.

For the last week and change, Sherman's been the hottest topic not just in football, but the world of sports following his postgame rant after last Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

But the world's probably disappointed in what they've gotten from Sherman. He hasn't had explosive comments or fiery responses or even the mildest of hot sports takes. He's been reserved, smart and respectful. This isn't a surprise. It's who Richard Sherman is.

The world is certainly watching though. Sherman had a bigger crowd around his podium at Media Day on Tuesday than Peyton Manning did in the early session. And that wasn't because the media thinned out; reporters from every corner of the globe flocked to try and get a potent quotable from the brazen cornerback.

He didn't necessarily deliver on that, but he did admit he enjoys the attention.

“I see the fun in the Super Bowl. I see everybody's attention and how much the NFL has grown as a franchise, as a world brand, and I see that the Super Bowl is a huge event for the world," Sherman said. "There are a lot of cameras, a lot of different languages, a lot of countries, a lot of diversity – I love it.”

Who can blame him? Last year at this time in New Orleans, Sherman was walking around Bourbon Street while working for Bleacher/Report and asking fans who was the better cornerback between Sherman and Darrelle Revis. The fans didn't just universally support Revis, one fan, obviously not knowing who he was talking to, even told Richard Sherman that Richard Sherman is worse because he's "too fat," he's "slow" and he's "a punk."

No. This happened. (And Sherman actually politely screamed "RICHARD SHERMAN, NICE TO MEET YOU!" in response ... which should sound familiar.

His profile caught a boost then but it's nothing compared to what Sherman's getting this week. He's probably one of the four or five most famous cornerbacks in the history of the NFL at this point, at least to casual fans. That sounds like hyperbole but how many defensive backs have had CNN and Fox News break in live for their pre Super Bowl press conference?

Sherman got that treatment last week and this week he's managed to trump Manning in terms of what the world's talking about. Marinate on that for a second. Peyton Manning, perhaps the most scrutinized quarterback ever, the clubhouse leader in narrative discussion and legacy chatter, is being put on the back burner because the world's obsessed with a Seahawks defensive back.

It makes no sense and it shouldn't be happening. But it is, and Sherman deserves credit for getting the PR ball rolling. It's not fair to call what he did in his interview with Erin Andrews a stunt. He was passionate on live television when he ripped Michael Crabtree.

But it could've been planned. FOX Sports analyst Joe Buck served as the play-by-play guy for that Seahawks-49ers game and told me on Tuesday at the Super Bowl that Sherman did the same thing during FOX's pre-production meeting on the Friday before the game.

"He knew exactly what he was doing. Anybody who thinks that was off the top of his head I think is not understanding the situation," Buck told CBSSports.com. "He went off on Crabtree in our meeting on Friday. And it just so happened the perfect storm -- the game basically ends on a play he makes on Crabtree. He could've been on anybody, and he happens to be on Crabtree so he got his moment."

Buck is 100 percent convinced that Sherman manufactured the entire thing. His colleague Erin Andrews, who actually interviewed Sherman on the field, disagrees.

"I don't think you can plan that," Andrews told CBSSports.com. "I'm also very naive. Maybe I'm naive and he was [planning it]. But did he really think the final play was going to come down to him?"

Andrews also had an interesting take on the attention Sherman's received saying she "doesn't think he cares."

That's a little hard to bite on, but Andrews spent more one-on-one time with Sherman recently while doing a feature on him for the Super Bowl. (Kudos to Buck and Andrews, by the way, for answering the unlimited number of Sherman-related questions coming their way this week.)

Sherman knows the game of football really well. But he's also a Stanford communications graduate who clearly understands the media as well.

Stomaching the notion that Sherman is just humming along singing a song and soaking in this attention without a broader plan in place is too hard to fathom, especially when the truth of the matter was staring us right in the face after Media Day.

That looks like a man who's become a massive, worldwide superstar overnight and finds himself with the media wrapped around his finger in the week leading up to the biggest football game of the year.

My friend Pete Prisco has a saying that "what's good for me is good for me." Well, Richard Sherman's in the middle of the biggest me-fest we've seen in a long time. Maybe it's all a well-planned, orchestrated public relations push by a guy who's much smarter than anyone's giving him credit. Maybe it's a passionate football player rolling with the punches and soaking in the press. Maybe it's something somewhere random in between and Sherman was just smart enough to hop aboard his own train when it started leaving the station.

Whatever it is, it's been good for Richard Sherman. And when we all think back on this week as Sherman's Super Bowl, he's going to look like the smartest guy in the room.

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