SANTA CLARA — 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gave the team a message before the bye week for players to use the time off for self-evaluation. He emphasized that they should be focused on what they want to prove in the final six games, especially in regards to their future with the team.
Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman believes that playing for your future spot should really be a focus no matter what the team’s record is. He believes that’s the mark of a professional.
“That’s how it always should be,” Sherman said, “no matter what time of the season, and no matter what the record is.”
“When you’re on a good team and things are going well, you’re still playing for your job, it’s just a little bit more secure, guys feel more secure. But either way, when it’s going good, you shouldn’t feel secure either."
Sherman practices what he preaches and does not rest on his laurels. The last game before the bye was one of his best since coming to Santa Clara, allowing two completions on four targets for 10 yards. In his eight games as a Niner he has only allowed 11 receptions on 24 targets for 153 yards.
“Kyle and those guys are obviously evaluating who is going to be here and who’s not,” Sherman said. “Myself included, we have to play great football, and as always do my job at a high level and help my team win.”
Arriving at Week 12 with only two wins has been frustrating but Sherman sees growth and potential in the young secondary.
“It’s frustrating but it’s one of those things that comes over time,” Sherman said. “I’ve been through it multiple times, especially with young guys playing substantial minutes, you’re going to have that. They learn from their mistakes and move forward.”
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“I think that’s what we have. We’ve had guys improve throughout the season.”
The goal is not to play a perfect game but to play mistake free, sound football. Sherman sees the team getting closer to it, but recognizes the mistakes that have happened in crucial moments of games.
The secondary has had the additional challenge of players changing positions throughout the first 10 games. Jimmie Ward moved from cornerback back to safety during the offseason, and rookie D.J. Reed has played corner, slot and safety.
Sherman believes that staying at one position helps a player master his craft, but also sees the drive in his young teammates adapting to new roles.
“It’s tough enough in your rookie year, going through the transition of getting into the NFL," Sherman said. "It’s tough for even a veteran to do. But I think everybody has worked very hard to give it their best shot.”