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SANTA CLARA -- The chip on Richard Sherman’s shoulder has become a badge of honor. The Seattle Seahawks cornerback maintains it well, with a reading regimen focused on the worst people have to say about him.
That routine has been in place since his days as at Stanford under now-49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and carries on to this day. Sherman is clearly on the lookout for extra motivation this week, heading into Sunday’s NFC championship game against the rival 49ers.
“People tell me to never read what’s written about me,” Sherman said in a Wednesday press conference. “I read all the clips every day. I read everything. Everything negative someone says about me, I find it and use it as fuel. I use it to make the chip a little bit bigger so that All-Pro honors and Pro Bowls don’t mean as much because you’re focused on the chip. You’re staying hungry.”
The 49ers haven’t given him anything of substance. They’ve been polite and respectful in regard to a physical, effective Seahawks secondary often considered villainous.
Even Harbaugh, who can be colorful when he chooses and has drawn Sherman’s ire, didn’t take the bait.
“I have great memories of Richard Sherman when we were teammates at Stanford,” said Harbaugh, his college coach. “Now we’re adversaries, competitors. I wish Richard great success and happiness in his career. I can’t wish him luck this week because we’re playing him, but I have fond memories of Richard when we were teammates.”
Sherman has been expressive in his opinions about Harbaugh’s role in him slipping to the fifth round of the 2011 draft. That time came up just days before a monstrous game. While he didn’t take direct shots, Sherman didn’t dodge questions.
The chip re-emerged when he answered, and stayed throughout a Seattle press conference where the Seahawks-49ers rivalry took center stage.
“There is some strong dislike between the teams,” Sherman said. “But this is playoff football, so there would be a lot of intensity, a lot of (chippy play) even if we weren’t so familiar with each other. … The game is going to be intense. It’s going to be physical. I don’t know if there are going to be handshakes after this one.”
Sherman and the 49ers can agree on that, even if their press-conference tactics differ slightly. While Sherman’s answers seem shot from the hip, an agenda is being set. It’s one designed to motivate those around him.
“When he’s acting like the villain (with the media), he’s doing it for a reason,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “He’s the first person to catch everyone’s eye about (the Seahawks). He’s done a great thing for us. He’s put us in a position where everyone wants us to be the bad guys and give up all these explosive plays. Most of the time, prove everybody wrong."