RENTON — In the Seahawks’ locker room Thursday morning, Richard Sherman put down his cellphone and, like the town crier, hollered the news to his teammates.
Sherman had just been told by his attorney that he had won the appeal of his four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
“I won!” he told the players.
Hoots and cheers echoed across the room. High fives were exchanged.
“High fives, as old school as it is, is still the best way to celebrate,” Sherman said later in the day, grinning like a kid discovering another gift under the tree. “There was a sigh of relief for the whole team knowing that that was done and over with and we could move on from it. Justice was served.”
He won’t serve a four-game suspension, as the Seahawks had feared. He will be available in January, when they open their playoff run. And he will be reunited with fellow cornerback Brandon Browner, who returns next week from his four-game suspension for a testing positive for banned substance.
The news just keeps getting better for the Seahawks.
“It’s been like my right hand hasn’t been with me the whole time,” Sherman said of Browner’s absence. “It’s been kind of tough on me. We can’t wait to have him back.”
Athletes hardly ever win these appeals. And when they do there is the presumption of guilt, as if they somehow scammed the system and got off on a technicality. Sherman was asked if he cared about the perception of some that he is guilty.
“I know what the truth is and everybody else who knows anything knows what the truth is,” Sherman said at his news conference. “The truth has been told today, and people can say what they want. There’s always naysayers. There were a lot of mistakes made, on top of me never taking anything. That’s kind of the big one.”
Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren used to say that teams can’t win in the playoffs unless their best players are playing at their best.
Sherman, who is tied for second in NFL with seven interceptions, has had one of the top three seasons at cornerback.
And, as deep as the Seahawks suddenly are at that position, they still can’t win in January without Sherman.
“There was obviously a good amount of stress over this,” Sherman said. “You just don’t know. You know how strong your case is. You know how strong everything is, but it was great to finally get it over with and get the win. Just have that burden off your shoulders and be able to move on and try to make the playoff run with my guys. I’m excited. Just knowing, for sure, that I’ll be able to go out there and play with my teammates. I think we have a great chance of making a pretty good run.”
Sherman motivates himself by reminding himself of the snubs, both real and alleged, that he has suffered. This victory in his appeal process adds more fuel on his already raging fire.
“My chances have always been slim and none, and I’ve always found a way to win,” Sherman said. “You don’t make it this far without getting through some kind of adversity. This is just another phase.”
He believes he should have been a No. 1 pick.
He was taken in the fifth round.
On Wednesday he was snubbed by the Pro Bowl.
The league’s players and coaches didn’t vote him on the NFC team.
Maybe it was the possibility of a drug suspension that discouraged the voters.
Maybe it had something to do with his nonstop chatter and his sometimes over-the-top on-field celebrations.
Sherman certainly has angered more than a few players and coaches in his two seasons in the league.
The reason really doesn’t matter.
It’s just more coal on Sherman’s fire.
“I have no idea, to tell you the truth, why they didn’t vote for me,” he said. “That’s just how it happens sometimes. Fifth-round pick, you’re not a very big name out there.”
This is how it goes for Richard Sherman.
No matter how much success he has, he still thrives on adversity.
No matter how many wins, he still rails against the inequities he feels. He carries a chip on his shoulder as proudly as if it were a Phi Beta Kappa key.
During this appeal process, he hasn’t gone anywhere, hasn’t missed a game, yet Thursday it almost seemed as if he had returned with an attitude.
“I’m still here with a vengeance,” Sherman said.
And a chip.
Steve Kelley writes for The Seattle Times