Richard Sherman at some point won’t be able to play cornerback at the high level he’s accustomed to.
Father time is notoriously undefeated, particularly at such a physically demanding position that requires speed, quickness and agility to stay with athletic receivers. Typically those skills don’t last much longer than the current point of Sherman’s career.
But the 30-year-old 49er has already thought about the future – and he thinks he could eventually make a position switch to help prolong his productivity into his mid-30s.
“At some point, everybody makes the transition to safety, if you’re smart enough to play that game,” Sherman said Thursday. “And I’ll probably do that in a couple years, whenever the team needs it.”
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Sherman might eventually go into the Hall of Fame for his work as a cornerback. His 32 interceptions and 103 pass breakups are the most of any active player since entering the league in 2011, and he’s widely considered one of the best secondary players of his generation following his seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
Other elite cornerbacks have made a similar switch. Nine-time Pro Bowler Charles Woodson famously made the change from cornerback to safety with the Green Bay Packers full time in 2012, a year after being a first-team All-Pro in 2011. Rod Woodson, a Hall of Famer, also made the change in the late 1990s.
Sherman has been targeted just 31 times in 10 games this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranks 97th among qualified cornerbacks. His 20.4 coverage snaps per reception allowed ranks third in the NFL, per the scouting service’s data.
Sherman sounded interested in the idea of being in the line of fire more often at safety, where he would play in the middle of the field rather than being limited to the left side.
“At corner, I’ve had games where I haven’t gotten a look or thrown at,” he said. “And at safety you can see exactly where the ball goes. You can make an impact, you can find a way – you get in on every tackle just about, because you’re in the center of everything, kind of like a ‘Mike’ (linebacker). But it’s something I’m definitely going to consider later in my career. Hopefully I’ll be just as good there.”
Sherman said he’s spoken with Charles Woodson about the transition and also indicated that he plans on playing until he’s 35, which would mean playing five more NFL seasons for a total of 13.
Whether or not Sherman is afforded the chance to play safety for the 49ers remains to be seen. He signed a three-year contract with San Francisco last spring in the midst of his recovery from a torn right Achilles suffered in November 2017.
Sherman has appeared in five-straight games since calf and Achilles issues bothered him earlier in the season and indicated he’s feeling better later in the year after his body has been able to acclimate to the season following his grueling recovery.
“I’ve been fighting it all season,” Sherman said. “Probably over the last three or four weeks, it’s just felt like my body has finally had enough time to reset, hit the reset (button) and take another step. It’s almost like a second wind, because when you’re coming from rehab and you’re doing all that stuff consistently, constantly, your body’s always in a constant fatigued state and then you got practice.
“... And you never get a few days (to) reset your body, let it get back to where it needs to be, and it wasn’t like I was able to train the way you would normally train in the offseason.”