San Francisco 49ers

49ers' Richard Sherman takes field, feels 'light years' better than last year

‘Let the chips fall.’ 49ers CB Richard Sherman on his former team and QB Garoppolo

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman talks on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 about Seattle’s defense, quarterback “James” Garoppolo and how he doesn't want to “look fat” for training camp.
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San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman talks on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 about Seattle’s defense, quarterback “James” Garoppolo and how he doesn't want to “look fat” for training camp.

Coach Sherman briefly turned back into cornerback Sherman on Tuesday.

Richard Sherman, the 49ers' most conspicuous offseason acquisition, took the field in a team setting for the first time since November when, as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he tore his right Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.

It was Sherman's only major injury in seven NFL seasons and the 49ers are betting he can return to his previous form. He went through a 15-minute "individual drill" session with the rest of the cornerbacks on the first day of San Francisco's two-day minicamp.

"If I wasn't an eight-year vet, I'd probably be out there getting more reps in," Sherman, 30, said before practice. "But they don't think I need the reps and I don't think I need the reps. So it works out."

He slipped while coming out of a backpedal on one of his repetitions. On another, he dropped a pass from an assistant coach. In short, he looked like someone who has been relegated to rehabilitating on a side field and who hasn't gone through a real practice in months.

The important thing, Sherman said, is that he's starting to feel like he did before the injury, which began bothering him around this time last year.

"Then it kind of got worse in training camp," he said. "But we just kind of backed off. And I'd practice here and there. And we just kind of babied it as long as we could until we knew it would just go. You can't baby it in games."

The tendon finally ruptured when he was straining for an interception in a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 9. A week later, Sherman went on injured reserve and his distinguished career with the Seahawks effectively ended. He had a second, less serious, surgery in February to remove bone spurs in his left Achilles.

The result?

“I'm light years better than I have (felt) over the past few years,” he said. “This is the first offseason I’ve actually got to heal up and let all the ailments go away and come out completely healthy.”

When the individual drill session ended Tuesday, Sherman slipped back into his role as sideline cheerleader, assistant coach and mentor.

He's the only 30-something in San Francisco's secondary and he's prided himself on taking the young cornerbacks under his wing -- bowling, go-cart racing and dinners have been among the festivities -- this offseason.

"At the end of the day if you don't trust guys on and off the field, it's going to be hard to trust them on the field and really believe in them and do the things that you need to do in crucial moments," he said.

With Jimmie Ward out with an ankle injury Tuesday, the team's top cornerbacks during 11-on-11 situations were Tyvis Powell, 24, and Ahkello Witherspoon, 23. Both of them are prototypes of Sherman in that they are tall, long players who weigh about 200 pounds and who excel in press coverage.

Powell, who was Sherman's teammate in Seattle in 2016, even intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo on a pass that the quarterback tried to squeeze to Aaron Burbridge.

"Those guys have been growing exponentially every day," Sherman said. "Tyvis Powell has been having the best OTA I've seen him have. Obviously, you've (also) got guys like 'Spoon who have been taking that second-year leap."