RENTON, Wash. - It turns out the tip was just the tip of the iceberg in the relationship between Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree, and it created the first public brushfire of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Sherman exploded with taunts and derisive comments about Crabtree after Sunday night's NFC Championship Game, which came down to a fade pass in the end zone that Sherman batted away from the 49ers wide receiver. The ball was intercepted by Malcolm Smith with 22 seconds left and the Seahawks won, 23-17.
After the play, Sherman taunted Crabtree halfway across the field and gave 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick the choke sign (he was penalized for those actions). Coming off the field, he gave fiery interviews to several networks. Then, in his postgame news conference about an hour later, he continued to spew -- if not as loudly -- about Crabtree.
So what gives? In his weekly column for Sports Illustrated's MMQB.com, Sherman explained a bit.
"It goes back to something he said to me this offseason in Arizona, but you'd have to ask him about that,'' he wrote. "A lot of what I said to [Fox interviewer Erin] Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don't like him.''
After his vitriolic performance, which resembled a pro wrestling interview more than the usually unremarkable post-game chat, a lot of people felt the same way about Sherman.
"It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am,'' Sherman wrote. "I don't want to be a villain, because I'm not a villainous person . . . To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field -- don't judge a person's character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.''
According to the Seattle Times, Sherman has been upset with Crabtree since last summer, when they attended a charity event hosted by Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Sherman's brother Branton told the Times that Sherman tried to shake Crabtree's hand and Crabtree tried to start a fight.
"I'm going to make a play and embarrass him,'' Richard Sherman vowed that day, the Times wrote.
Sherman made good on that promise Sunday night. But in some ways he also put a bad light on himself and the Seahawks. He acknowledged that with an apology sent to ESPN.
"He was really clear that the last thing he wanted to do was take something away from our team and what we had accomplished,'' Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday after speaking with Sherman about the incident. "He got caught right in the throes of the fight . . . right off the bat. There's a little bit of leeway there, understandably, particularly for guys who play on such an edge emotionally like Richard does.''
Carroll used "incredible,'' "sensitivity,'' "awareness'' and "very thoughtful'' to describe Sherman. And he said the Seahawks generally encourage players to speak their minds.
"We're pretty open to being flexible to the uniqueness that guys bring to our program, not just physically but also in their makeup,'' Carroll said. "I've got no problem with guys who have personalities that are outgoing . . . We celebrate them being themselves. We cheerlead for them to be themselves. Sometimes we go overboard. Sometimes individuals go out of bounds and you have to step back and get back in there. I understand that.''
Carroll said he tried to speak to Sherman not as a coach would to a player but as a dad would to a son.
"When he puts out those kinds of thoughts, he has to know what he's saying and understand it,'' Carroll said, "and I think he's very understanding at this point that he caused a stir that took something away from the team.''
Source: Bowman tore ACL, MCL. A person with knowledge of NaVorro Bowman's injury said the All-Pro 49ers linebacker tore an anterior cruciate ligament and a medial collateral ligament in Sunday's game.
According to the person, Bowman will have surgery for the ACL tear, the MCL is likely to heal with rest, he is expected to be ready for the 2014 season -- and "it's not as bad as feared."-- AP