If you like your opinions sugar-coated, then Richard Sherman probably isn't for you.
For as long as he's been among the NFL's big-name cornerbacks, the four-time Pro Bowler has also been known to keep it real, as in not hide his feelings. The peak of his emergence, after all, during the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 Super Bowl run, came not only as a lock-down starter in the "Legion of Boom" but as the man who delivered one of TV's most emotional post-game interviews in recent memory.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Sherman has plenty to say about.
Passed at March's owner's meetings, the rule outlaws any contact initiated with the head or helmet, and predictably, it's spawned months of player and coach confusion in a game built on contact. Sherman is among those players, and he's, explaining on Twitter that "even in a perfect form tackle, the body is led by the head."
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported this week that the NFL is working to better explain and officiate the rule in hopes of changing on-field behavior over a three-year window. But Sherman, who's taken charge on player-safety issues before, remains adamant that tackling will be impossible to regulate so long as the NFL keeps allowing players to tackle.
"I think that for them to police this in that way, with such a strict and very difficult-to-officiate rules, it's only going to hurt guys more," he says, speaking over the phone as he promotes The Daily Number, a new fantasy football app he's co-founded. "Guys are trying to pull up or pull off at almost 20 miles per hour. That's really difficult for anybody to do, and I think it'll lead to more injuries. There's nowhere to hit other than if you're aiming for the chest. You can't police that out of the game."
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League is in a tough spot
Sherman acknowledges the NFL is in the precarious position of appeasing both fans of a contact sport and those concerned with the long-term health of its players. It's hard to make football safe without making it something other than football, after all. But Sherman also thinks that if the NFL's goal is to produce football, it needs to realize it will always, at some level, be dangerous.
"I think there's inherent risk in it," he says. "Both sides understand that. I kind of compare it to boxing, in a way. If you told boxers, 'Don't knock each other out,' because of brain damage or because you'll shorten each other's lives, well, what else did you think was going to happen?"
(It's not as if Sherman is against saving brains and lives, either. He's previously gone on record to explain why "Thursday Night Football," in its current format, "endangers its players." He's called "TNF" an example of the NFL's hypocrisy over player safety, saying that the short-week games will survive "as long as the dollars keep rolling in.")
How to fix it
What's the solution, then? In Sherman's eyes, it's effectively up to the league to commit to one side or the other. No one's fighting player safety, but at what point does enforcing safety become mandating no contact or -- even worse -- hurting players more?
"If you don't want the quarterbacks to get hit, put flags on them," Sherman says. "If you put flags on quarterbacks, I guarantee guys will master snatching flags off them. But to handicap a defense this way is just ridiculous. You have running backs putting their heads down, and the defense is penalized for initiating contact at the head."
And despite all of that, Sherman still finds reasons to embrace today's NFL.
For one, his 2018 is shaping up to present new challenges -- and rewards -- on several fronts.
After seven years, four All-Pro selections and two Super Bowls in Seattle, he's now playing for the Seahawks' NFC West rival, the Niners, under a self-negotiated three-year contract. In just a few months in what was once enemy territory, he's seen enough to expect big things out of San Fran and their handsomely paid gunslinger, one-time Tom Brady heir Jimmy Garoppolo.
"I think we have a really great chance of being special this year," Sherman says. "I think we have the quarterback, I think we have the scheme, and that's doing a lot of damage right there."
Entering the daily-fantasy business
Off the field, Sherman is also breaking into the business world as the co-founder and chief marketing ambassador for The Daily Number, his own fantasy app. Developed by Tom McAuley, it will feature user-driven prize pools for daily fantasy games.
"In a world of all these fantasy apps and different platforms, it's very unique in that you play against a target score, and the prizes depend on who you pick," Sherman says. "If you pick the best guys, the Tom Bradys and the Aaron Rodgers and the Julio Jones, then your prize is probably going to be a lot less than with a bunch of unknown guys."
Part of the inspiration for his app came from other players involving themselves in ventures beyond football. He spent part of the summer celebrating the launch of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz's foundation, and he's long been committed to highlighting the change athletes help create.
"I think there's a lot more positive and community outreach -- players doing their best to help people, whether it's financially, giving equipment to schools or backpacks to kids in need, making time to speak to kids, to have free camps to teach kids and to make the world a better place," Sherman says. "And that's a problem I think we have today. We celebrate controversy and criticism more than we celebrate good deeds."
Sherman himself, of course, isn't immune to that. Just remind him of the tackling rules.
Then again, that's also just who he is. And he isn't one for sugar-coating.