RENTON, Wash. — Pete Carroll pulled Richard Sherman aside on Monday and made sure his fiery cornerback understood that his rant against San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree was overshadowing the Seattle Seahawks reaching their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
Sherman seemed to get Carroll’s message.
“He was really clear that the last thing he wanted to do was take something away from our team, what we had accomplished,” Carroll said.
Sherman became the focal point of attention — both positive and negative — after Seattle beat San Francisco 23-17 on Sunday to win the NFC championship.
The defensive back was already going to be in the spotlight for what he did on San Francisco’s final offensive play, twisting his body to deflect a pass intended for Crabtree into the air and allowing time for teammate Malcolm Smith to run over and make an interception in the end zone to clinch the Seahawks victory.
The athleticism on the play was worthy of praise. But Sherman’s antics from that point drew praise from some for being honest and unfiltered, and criticism from others for being too harsh and combative.
“This is a very emotional kid and that’s what drives him,” Carroll said. “We did sit down and talk about it because I want him to present himself in his best light. He’s an incredible kid.
“He has a great sense about things and understanding and sensitivity and awareness and he cares and he’s a very thoughtful personm, so when he puts out those kind of thoughts he has to know what he’s saying and understand it. And I think he’s very understanding at this point that he caused a stir that took away from the team.”
Sherman had been rarely targeted by the 49ers, with most of Colin Kaepernick’s passes being thrown in the direction of Byron Maxwell.
But in the final minute, Kaepernick decided to take a shot to the end zone with Crabtree and Sherman matched up one-on-one.
Sherman won the matchup, staying in position to deflect the pass and have it fall into Smith’s hands, similar to a tipped interception from Sherman to safety Earl Thomas in Week 15 against the New York Giants.
Except this was far more meaningful, giving Seattle its second conference championship.
But Sherman didn’t let the celebration end with Smith and his teammates. Sherman ran over to Crabtree and gave him a pat on the backside, then appeared to extend his arm for a handshake. Instead, Sherman got shoved in the face before picking up his personal foul as his celebration continued. The taunt included a choking gesture toward Kaepernick.
Asked about the incident afterward by Fox reporter Erin Andrews, Sherman lit up Twitter with a rant that began: “I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me!”
And Sherman didn’t back down later, apologizing to Andrews but calling Crabtree “mediocre.” He said his issues with Crabtree went back to an incident during the offseason.
Andrews told Newsday that she was not upset.
“We expect these guys to play like absolute animals and beasts for 60 minutes and then probably 90 seconds to two minutes later, you’re going to be composed,” she said. “That’s why this has blown up, because we don’t see athletes really show pure emotions like that.”
She added about the former Stanford player: “I wasn’t nervous; I wasn’t scared. I have met with him three to four times. I actually really like him ... He is smarter than probably all of us put together and he just went nuts — in a good way.”
But Carroll said he viewed the situation as a father talking to his son, and wanted Sherman to realize some more thought should have gone into what the cornerback was saying.
“There’s some stuff in there I think you should think about, and did you really want it to come out the way it did, and talk our way through that,” Carroll said. “And he didn’t. He didn’t feel right about that.”
Carroll also said Seattle WR Percy Harvin (concussion) could be cleared to practice later this week and is expected to be ready for the Super Bowl.