Sher­man re­turns with 49ers as Sea­hawks surge to­ward play­offs

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY TIM BOOTH

The de­ci­sion to part with Richard Sher­man — along with sev­eral other im­pact vet­er­ans — was sup­posed to be part of the cu­mu­la­tive rea­son the Seat­tle Sea­hawks would fi­nally take a step back. This was go­ing to be the re­build season, even if no one with the Sea­hawks ever wanted to use that word.

Sher­man will see his for­mer team up close Sun­day when the San Fran­cisco 49ers face the Sea­hawks. He will find a Seat­tle team that’s not back­slid­ing. In­stead, Seat­tle (6-5) has won two straight and has a di­rect path to an NFC play­off berth in a season no one re­ally ex­pected the Sea­hawks to be in the con­ver­sa­tion at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber.

The play­ers who stepped in for the likes of Sher­man and other vet­er­ans who departed af­ter last season have brought a youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance. That has cre­ated a fun en­vi­ron­ment in Seat­tle only am­pli­fied by the Sea­hawks’ suc­cess.

“This game is too crazy to not have fun and it’s def­i­nitely a point of em­pha­sis for me, just for the guys that came in and were step­ping into a lot of key po­si­tions, to not worry about who they were re­plac­ing or who you were com­ing be­hind, “Seat­tle star line­backer Bobby Wag­ner said, “but just to have the fun you’ve been hav­ing all your life and ev­ery­thing else will fig­ure out it­self.”

Fun has come around spar­ingly in San Fran­cisco this season. The 49ers (2-9) were sup­posed to be in Seat­tle’s position of com­pet­ing for a play­off spot. But in­juries — namely the loss of QB Jimmy Garop­polo — de­railed those hopes early in the season. They looked great in thump­ing Oak­land on Nov. 1, only to turn around and drop their next two against the weak Giants and Buc­ca­neers.

“I do think we’re go­ing through this for a rea­son. I do think it can make us bet­ter,” 49ers coach Kyle Shana­han said. “A lot of guys have got­ten to play a lot that nor­mally wouldn’t be able to play, and I hope that helps us find some things out about peo­ple this year and helps us build this team bet­ter next year.”

Wel­com­ing Sher­man back to Seat­tle starts a stretch of four of the fi­nal five games at home for the Sea­hawks. They’ve been a no­to­ri­ously good team in the fi­nal month of the cal­en­dar, and get­ting to play at home is adding to the be­lief this season could end in an un­ex­pected play­off berth.

PAUL KITAGAKI JR. pkita­[email protected]

San Fran­cisco 49ers cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man re­turns to Seat­tle this week, where he won a Su­per Bowl.

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