Richard Sherman arrives to the practice field a little later than his teammates these days.
The 49ers veteran cornerback has stuck to the elongated warmups with head strength coach Ray Wright that were part of his offseason recovery from an Achilles tear.
“I warm up pretty quick after that,” Sherman said this week. “That’s more just like stretch, getting on the massager and I do a few ladders and I’m off to practice.”
Emotionally, however, Sherman still feels like a rookie — he does every year ahead of Week 1, but this season is different. Sherman, 30, will suit up with a new team for the first time in his eight-year career Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
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“It’s always a rookie excitement,” Sherman said. “You always go into it knowing that you’re going to have a chance to do something special. You’re excited about the possibility. You get the butterflies and all that. I don’t think that will ever change.”
The transition to the 49ers from the rival Seahawks has come with aplomb. There was some trepidation early, particularly from offensive tackle Joe Staley who acknowledged Sherman was a thorn in San Francisco’s side during the peak of the rivalry with Seattle from 2011-13.
“He’s been the exact opposite of what I thought. I thought he was going to be annoying like he was annoying to me when he was in a Seahawks’ uniform,” Staley said at the start of training camp. “But he’s been nothing but great.”
Added fullback Kyle Juszczyk: “Oh my gosh, he fits in great. I think he’s a leader that we needed on this team because we do have so many young guys. And to have someone like him that just has that reputation, it’s a face everyone recognizes as soon as he walks in the room. ... He does a really good job of having that respect but also giving respect to other guys.”
Sherman’s presence has been more apparent as a mentor than on the field throughout training camp and the preseason.
“I’m a social butterfly,” Sherman said.
He appeared in just one exhibition game due to a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined early last month. Healthy or not, Sherman’s voice echoed throughout the team’s practice facility as an extension of the coaching staff after playing in a similar scheme with the Seahawks.
He made his lone exhibition appearance in the third preseason game against the Colts. In the second half, when he and most other starters were already out of the game, Sherman was on the field barking directions at his third-string teammates during a timeout.
Sherman treats his body like a typical NFL veteran with an established résumé. It won’t be surprising to see him and other long-serving players such as Staley get Wednesdays off from practice throughout the 2018 season.
The team clearly wanted to be cautious with Sherman ahead of Sunday’s trip to Minnesota, where he’ll be tasked with slowing one of the league’s premier receiver duos in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. All signs are pointing to Sherman being 100 percent healthy — and he’ll have the added juice of new custom cleats from Nike inspired by his close friend Kobe Bryant.
“(Diggs) is a good route runner,” Sherman said. “He’s very detailed in regards to his depths and how he manipulates the route. Thielen, same way. Great hands, very deliberate route runner. Reliable, consistent. Those are things they’ve always done well in Minnesota. They have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, so look (I) forward to the challenge.”
Sherman elected NFLPA representative — The 49ers on Wednesday held their vote for players’ representative for the NFL Players Association, a position Sherman held dating to 2014 with the Seahawks. The runners up in the voting were receiver Marquise Goodwin and linebacker Brock Coyle.
Sherman, who also serves as one of nine NFLPA vice presidents, said he’s expecting another lockout to come in 2021 when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. There was a lockout after the previous CBA expired in 2011.
“We don’t plan on changing anything about the deal that we currently have right now. So I don’t think it’s going to be negotiated before the end of the CBA. It’s going to cause a lockout and we’ll deal with it,” Sherman said.
Good news for Ward and Gilliam — Defensive back Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) and tackle Garry Gilliam (concussion) were upgraded from limited to full participants in Thursday’s practice. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring) was still limited, though coordinator Robert Saleh expects to have Smith against the Vikings.
“Everything looks good for game day,” Saleh said.