Richard Sherman open to moving to safety before end of his career

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman just turned 30 in March, but he has already begun having thoughts and conversations about how the rest of his career might play out.

During his weekly media session Thursday, Sherman offered the number he has in mind as a retirement age and suggested that a position change from corner to free safety could happen before he reaches that number.

"I think 35 is probably my cutoff," Sherman said. "They'd have a hard time getting me out of the bed at 35 to go play, so I think I've got about four or five more [seasons] in me. At some point, everybody makes the transition to safety and if you're smart enough to play that game and I'll probably do that in a couple of years or whenever the team needs."

A potential move to safety might be a couple of years away, but Sherman said he has already begun looking into what a move might entail and what might appeal to him about it.

As part of that research, Sherman, who has two years left on his contract with the 49ers, said he had spoken to former All-Pro defensive back Charles Woodson about the position switch. Woodson spent his first 14 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers as a Pro Bowl cornerback before moving to free safety in 2012.

Woodson, who now works as an NFL analyst for ESPN, played his last four NFL seasons at safety, a stint that included a Pro Bowl berth in 2015 and nine interceptions over his final two years. Other top cornerbacks, such as Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams, have made similar late-career position changes.

Sherman acknowledged Thursday that he can see the appeal in such a move, noting that he could get more action at safety than he does at corner.

"At corner, I've had games where I haven't got a look, thrown at, and at safety you can see exactly where the ball goes and you can make an impact," Sherman said. "You can get in on every tackle just about because you're in the center of everything, kind of like the Mike [linebacker]. But it's something I'm definitely going to consider later in my career and hopefully I'll be just as good there."

Getting in on the action is something Sherman hasn't been able to do much of this season as opposing quarterbacks often target different parts of the field than where Sherman roams. Sherman said Thursday there hasn't been a single play this year in which he felt as if he had a chance for an interception.

For now, Sherman is focused on finishing the final four games of his first season in San Francisco and his first season since suffering a ruptured right Achilles in November of last year.

Although Sherman had some starts and stops related to the surgically repaired Achilles and a preseason hamstring injury earlier in the season, he has appeared healthier in recent weeks. In fact, Sherman hasn't been limited in practice or even been listed on the injury report for the better part of the past month.

"I have been fighting it all season but probably over the last three, four weeks it's been astronomical," Sherman said. "It just felt like my body had finally had enough time to hit the reset [button] and take another step. It's almost like a second wind because when you're coming from rehab and you're doing all that stuff consistently, constantly, your body is always in like a constant fatigued state."

Earlier in the season, Sherman said he found himself starting to feel good only to have practice or something else that would put his body back in a fatigued state. That was made more difficult by the fact that he spent his offseason rehabilitating from the Achilles injury rather than doing some of the basic core workouts that are pivotal for NFL cornerbacks.

Without time to rest, it made it hard for Sherman to string games together. But he had a breakthrough when he was able to play against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28 and then turn around and play against the Oakland Raiders just four days later.

Since then, Sherman has played every game without any apparent injury issues and said he's starting to feel as if he's back to himself again.

For the season, Sherman has 24 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and four passes defended while playing in 10 of the Niners' 12 games.

"In a way I knew year one would have its struggles coming off the injury I came off of, but I also knew that I would still be able to play at a high level," Sherman said. "I just didn't know if I'd be able to do it every week.

"Just being 100 percent in this game and going week to week, something comes up, you have got thigh contusions, you've got knee pain, you roll your ankle, you get the normal wear and tear throughout the season. So, you never know on top of what you already have what's going to come up, but I feel pretty good right now."