Sher­man has the long game in mind

With no picks this year, DB wants to play 4 or 5 more sea­sons

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Cur­tis Pashelka [email protected] ba­yare­anews­group.com

SANTA CLARA » Richard Sher­man might be in the first year of a three-year con­tract he signed with the 49ers in March. But the 30-year- old cor­ner­back said Thurs­day he has no in­ten­tion of call­ing it quits once his deal ex­pires.

“I think I’ve got about four or five more (sea­sons) in me,” Sher­man said. “At some point every­body makes the tran­si­tion to safety if you’re smart enough to play that game. I’ll prob­a­bly do that in a cou­ple years, or what­ever the team needs.”

Right now, the 49ers’ de­fense needs a few more in­ter­cep­tions, and this sea­son may be the first one of Sher­man’s NFL ca­reer where he doesn’t fin­ish with at least one pick.

Sher­man had an NFL-best 32 in­ter­cep­tions from 2011 to 2017. He had eight in­ter­cep­tions in 2012 and 2013, and had four in one sea­son as re­cently as 2016.

But since the start of the 2017 sea­son, Sher­man has two picks in 19 games, with both com­ing off of Hous­ton’s De­shaun Wat­son in Seat­tle in Oct. 2017 when the Sea­hawks hosted the Tex­ans.

“It’s not some­thing I think about,” Sher­man said. “The ball will get where it gets.”

Cer­tainly Sher­man is used to see­ing quar­ter­backs ex­ploit the op­po­site side of the field. But does he feel he’s missed op­por­tu­ni­ties for an in­ter­cep­tion this year? “No, I haven’t had one,” he said. The 49ers were hop­ing Sher­man would re­gain some of his old form in his re­turn to his home state, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing their de­fense last sea­son ranked 22nd

in points al­lowed and 24th in to­tal yards.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way.

Go­ing into Sun­day’s game at Levi’s Sta­dium against the Den­ver Bron­cos, the 49ers are last in the NFL in take­aways (five) and in­ter­cep­tions (two). Their last in­ter­cep­tion was Oct. 28 when safety Jaquiski Tartt picked off quar­ter­back Josh Rosen in what ended up as an 18-15 San Fran­cisco loss to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

Last week’s 43-16 loss to the Sea­hawks epit­o­mized the team’s frus­tra­tions. Both Ahkello Wither­spoon and An­tone Exum Jr. frit­tered away op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick off Rus­sell Wil­son. The week be­fore, Fred Warner had a chance to nab a Jameis Win­ston throw.

“Every game it seems like the ball is on the ground or we’re miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity,” 49ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robert Saleh said Thurs­day. “They’re go­ing to come in bunches. It’s baf­fling to me that we haven’t been able to get as many as we had and how many missed (op­por­tu­ni­ties) we’ve had.

“I’m not even talk­ing about mirac­u­lous plays. I’m just talk­ing about plays that I feel like are gim­mies. We should be well in dou­ble dig­its in terms of take­aways.”

Sher­man has seen the same thing.

“When you get your op­por­tu­ni­ties, guys have had balls in their hands and just dropped them,” Sher­man said. “There have prob­a­bly been four or five of those where it’s just been clean in­ter­cep­tions, but they hit the ground.”

Since last Novem­ber, Sher­man, who will turn 31 on March 30, has had two surg­eries on both of his Achilles ten­dons. He’s missed two games this sea­son, most re­cently the 49ers’ Oct. 21 game against the Los An­ge­les Rams when he was in­ac­tive with a calf in­jury.

Sher­man, though, said his body feels as good now as it has all year.

Maybe with his body back to nor­mal, his sta­tis­tics can re­turn to a fa­mil­iar place, as well.

” I knew year one (with the 49ers) would have its strug­gles, com­ing off the in­jury I came off of,” Sher­man said. “But I also knew that I would be able to still play at a high level, I just didn’t know if I would be able to do it every week. But I feel good right now.”

• Re­ceiver Pierre Garçon ( knee) did not prac­tice Thurs­day, call­ing into ques­tion whether he’ll be able to play against Den­ver. Garçon, who has missed the last three ex­tend games, was lim­ited in prac­tice Wed­nes­day.

Also not prac­tic­ing Thurs­day were run­ning back Matt Brieda (an­kle) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoul­der). Both will not play Sun­day.

Lim­ited in prac­tice Thurs­day were Exum (knee) and line­backer Mal­colm Smith (achilles). Cen­ter We­ston Rich­burg ( knee) and guard Laken Tom­lin­son ( hip) were both full par­tic­i­pants af­ter be­ing lim­ited the day be­fore.

JOSE CAR­LOS FA­JARDO — STAFF

Richard Sher­man, 30, who has no in­ter­cep­tions for the 49ers this sea­son, says he ex­pects to play un­til 2022 or 2023.

EZRA SHAW — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Nin­ers new­comer Richard Sher­man, 30, thinks he will even­tu­ally shift from de­fen­sive back to safety.

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