In a lengthy feature published Thursday by ESPN, Seahawks defensive players, and cornerback Richard Sherman in particular, are portrayed as being disdainful of quarterback Russell Wilson and still embittered over the interception that sealed the loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Sherman subsequently decried the story as “nonsense,” and he was joined by defensive end Michael Bennett, who called it “trash.”
Sherman’s sour sideline reaction to the goal-line pick thrown by Wilson was almost instantly turned into a meme, and as ESPN’s Seth Wickersham told it, the decorated defensive back has never gotten over it. If anything, tensions that had already been building before that game have grown since, despite the efforts of Coach Pete Carroll to engender team camaraderie. From ESPN’s report:
According to interviews with numerous current and former Seahawks players, coaches and staffers, few have taken [the defeat by New England] harder than Richard Sherman. He has told teammates and friends that he believes the Seahawks should have won multiple Super Bowls by now. And with just one trophy and the window closing fast, he has placed responsibility for that failing on the two faces of the franchise: Wilson and Carroll. Sherman, who like Wilson declined comment for this story, thinks Carroll hasn’t held Wilson or many young Seahawks to the defense’s championship standard. He’s been disillusioned not only by that single play more than two years earlier but also by his coach’s and quarterback’s response to it.
Elsewhere in the story, Wilson is described as having been a “divisive figure” in Seattle’s locker room, starting well before that season, in which the Seahawks were trying to defend the NFL title they had won a year earlier by trouncing the Broncos. “It seems to go beyond the normal jealousy aimed at most star quarterbacks,” Wickersham wrote, adding, “Teammates privately seem to want him exposed.”
In an interview Thursday on SiriusXM Radio (via Pro Football Talk), Sherman denounced the report. “It’s just a bunch of nonsense from ‘anonymous’ sources. Can never put much gravity of things like that,” the four-time Pro Bowler said.
Sherman, who was on the trading block earlier this offseason, was said in the story to have yelled at Wilson, “You [expletive] suck!” after intercepting the quarterback in a June 2014 practice. The cornerback is known for his intensity and outspoken nature, and a former assistant coach told Wickersham, “He’s always looking at what other people are doing. He’s made it personal. It’s your fault we’re not winning. It wears guys thin.”
Wilson is a devout Christian whose earnest demeanor has struck some observers, both in the Seahawks’ locker room and elsewhere, as inauthentic. According to the report, though, the greatest source of resentment by some teammates is the praise Wilson has gotten, despite producing inconsistent results with Seattle’s offense.
“It galls the defense to hear Wilson, ever positive, stand behind a podium and insist that the offense ‘made some great plays’ after games in which the Seahawks barely score — and then be propped up as if he were Aaron Rodgers,” Wickersham wrote.
However, Bennett proclaimed his “love” for Wilson on Thursday, describing the quarterback on Twitter as a “great teammate” and “friend,” and an “even better human.” He added, “I was at his house last week and he gave me BBQ ribs.”
Carroll is regarded as one of the most upbeat, player-friendly coaches in any sport, and he has generally given his Seahawks more freedom to speak their minds and act out during games than many of his colleagues would. However, it is possible that his positivity-focused approach is backfiring among some players.
Carroll, can be heartened, though, by Bennett’s compliments toward Wilson, which could be a sign that his locker room isn’t as divided as the ESPN report suggests. In any event, for all their in-house drama, the Seahawks have been pretty good at taking out their frustrations on their opponents, although it sounds like one moment of frustration has been etched deep into the psyche of the team’s star cornerback.