Fit with 49ers gives Richard Sherman's fire chance to burn bright again

Was Sherman a bigger loss for Seahawks or gain for 49ers? (1:31)

Stephen A. Smith applauds San Francisco GM John Lynch for the job he's done bringing in a franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and CB Richard Sherman, who has spent his entire career in the NFC West. (1:31)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As new San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman makes the roughly 800-mile move down the West Coast from Seattle to the Bay Area, he's leaving no doubt he will bring that rather large chip on his shoulder with him.

Asked Monday how that chip has influenced his career and whether he will continue his approach of seeking slights both real and perceived as motivation, Sherman didn't hesitate to confirm that nothing will change in that regard.

"Definitely, I've always played that way," Sherman said. "It's kind of reigniting that gasoline fire that I've always had burning. They just threw a lot more gas on it and I appreciate that, I'm thankful for this motivation and this kind of inspiration. I got a lot of people to show ... I'm excited at those prospects. I told [general manager] John [Lynch] and [chief contract negotiator] Paraag [Marathe] and [coach] Kyle [Shanahan], I got a little something in my neck when I feel disrespected or slighted and I usually have a way of showing that in my play.”

As one might expect, comments such as those and his acknowledgement to the MMQB that he was going to be "vengeful" toward the Seattle Seahawks after they released him last week have drawn plenty of attention. And that's understandable. After all, the idea of Sherman signing with his biggest rival, returning to his former home in Seattle and reclaiming his former Pro Bowl glory is a revenge story that would make the likes of Hamlet and Edmond Dantes proud.

Lost in all of the talk about retribution is this: While the chance to play the team that cut him twice a year was enticing, signing with the 49ers actually offers Sherman the best opportunity to return to something close to his high standards.

Here in the middle of March, nobody really knows whether Sherman will be able to recover from a ruptured right Achilles or how the procedure to clean up bone spurs in his left ankle might affect him moving forward. At the end of the month, Sherman will turn 30, another reason many are betting against him.

But while many questioned Sherman for everything from his decision to negotiate his own contract to his interpretation of what makes the 49ers a contender, he quietly came to the conclusion that the Niners provide him the chance to focus solely on doing everything needed to get back up to speed.

Many free agents will spend the next few weeks signing with new teams and then stepping into the uncertainty that goes with a new team and locale, but Sherman will have no such concerns.

Technically, Sherman isn't from the Bay Area but he might as well be. He spent his college years at Stanford and knows plenty about the region. Choosing a place to live or a place to eat won't be difficult. Staying on the West Coast was also important to Sherman as it provided a chance to stay close to family. He has two children living in Seattle and his fiancee's family lives there as well. His parents live in Los Angeles.

Sherman is scheduled to get married at the end of the month. From a family perspective, he'll have everything he could need no further than a short flight away.

"It mattered that I needed to be close enough to them to be able to see the kids and be able to come out and be comfortable," Sherman said. "If I went somewhere on the East Coast or the Midwest, it makes the logistics a lot more difficult. The Bay, I'm incredibly comfortable with it.”

From a football standpoint, the fit is just as snug.

There will be new teammates to meet but the Niners' locker room isn't completely foreign. Sherman played with linebackers Malcolm Smith and Brock Coyle and defensive end Cassius Marsh in Seattle. He also knows defensive coordinator Robert Saleh from Saleh's time as a Seahawks defensive assistant. And by staying in the NFC West, even the opponents will have some familiarity.

As for learning the playbook, perhaps the biggest change for most free agents, Sherman will have no difficulties. Saleh's Cover 3 scheme is nearly identical to what Sherman played for most of his time in Seattle. Aside from learning a few run fits, Sherman should have no problem with the X's and O's.

"I don't think it's going to be a transition at all," Sherman said. "I think I'm going to walk right in and know exactly what I need to do, what's going to be asked of me, where I need to be."

Which means Sherman can spend the next five months focused solely on getting healthy. He and the 49ers both believe he will be ready to go in time for the start of training camp. In the interim, Sherman will be expected to fit into the Niners' locker room and begin staking his claim to a primary leadership role.

At some point, the NFL schedule will be released and the world will know when Sherman will get his first crack at his former team and his first trip to the Pacific Northwest in a road uniform.

"I definitely enjoyed the city of Seattle and I enjoyed the fans there and have tremendous love and appreciation for the years I've spent there and the love and respect that they've given me over the years,” Sherman said. "I would love to get to play in that stadium again, wearing different colors, trying my best to ruin their day, perhaps. But I do want a chance to show what I can do."

It's a chance the Niners are happy to provide along with everything else Sherman is getting in his return to the Bay.