Richard Sherman was looking, and feeling, spry as ever Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve got two legs now,” Sherman said as he jogged to the sidelines for the San Francisco 49ers second practice of OTAs.
It's been some time since the 49ers cornerback has felt like his old self. In 2016, he played through the pain of an MCL injury. In 2017, he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. For the past 18 months, Sherman dealt with the lingering effects of his injuries that left him feeling inhibited for much of last season.
Now more than a full season removed from injury, the corner is enjoying a clean bill of health and finally feels like the vintage “Richard Sherman” heading into 2019.
“(For the) first time in a few years I get to move and groove the way I used to,” Sherman told reporters on Tuesday. “This season I’m able to just move and explode and just get to the spots I want to. I can stop when I want to stop. I can go when I want to go. It changes the whole dynamic.”
Sherman devoted the majority of last year's offseason rehabbing his torn right Achilles. He went on to appear in 14 games for the 49ers in 2018 and managed to perform admirably despite not feeling 100 percent. Sherman posted 37 total tackles, four passes defended and a sack in his first season in San Francisco. He was targeted just once every 12.6 coverage snaps, making him the most avoided corner in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus.
Sherman admitted he dealt with other ailments, including a calf strain that stemmed from his surgically repaired Achilles. He won't miss the mental hurdles that come with playing through pain.
“When you feel pain in certain movements, you just don’t want to hurt it any worse than it already is, so you kind of baby it a little bit,” Sherman added. “When you don’t have it then you’re not worried about that. You just move. You’re getting to your spots. You’re moving full speed. You can never move full speed when you have that inhibition, because I’m always conscious of what foot I’m putting in the ground on certain cuts. The game is too fast. Even a guy who thinks at my pace, it’s still too fast. … I’ve got to be able to react.”
This time last year, Sherman was held out of the 49ers offseason program while in his rehab process. He didn't make his practice debut until camp. This time around, Sherman is eager to be a full participant from the jump. Even entering Year 9, he understands the value of OTAs.
“It’s going to be like night and day just being able to get your rhythm earlier,” he continued. “Get your timing back. Get your conditioning where it’s supposed to be. Just getting a rhythm with guys and chemistry. Understanding where you’re going to be, where I’m going to be -- our communication. Anytime you have to initially get that in training camp, it’s difficult. It takes months, years sometimes to develop that kind of connection. But I get a lot more time this year and I’m looking forward to it."