SANTA CLARA – Football is no ordinary job.
But 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman wishes people would be more cognizant of the fact that those inside the uniforms are just ordinary people.
“There’s something to be said about the fanship of this game, because that’s obviously what’s elevated our game to be the best sport in America,” Sherman said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.
“But, at the same time, there is a degree of human that needs to be injected into these fan bases that I think they’re losing touch with. I think every day, every hour, every year, these fan bases are getting further and further from understanding that these are human beings out there playing.”
Sherman, like many around the country, was appalled that former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was booed by his home fans as he left the playing field Saturday night after it became known of his plan to retire.
Luck, 29, had his best season in 2018, and the Colts were considered a team primed for a playoff run.
“Let’s take the helmet off the guy and stop thinking about him as a football player and just think about him as a person,” Sherman said. “His injuries were well-documented. They were well-documented. You could see it. You could see the hits he was taking.
“Imagine you getting into 30 car wrecks and saying, ‘I don’t want to drive any more.’ and people saying, ‘Man, it’s so ridiculous he’s not driving any more.’ Well, he just doesn’t want to get in any more accidents.”
Sherman and Luck were teammates at Stanford University before both became stars in the NFL. Sherman said football players should not be held in any different light than people in other professions -- people who make career decisions in the best interest of their health and their families.
“I want them to separate football and people, just like they would their own jobs,” Sherman said. “I want them to think about them, whatever their occupation is, everybody’s job is important. I don’t care whether you’re a janitor at a high school or the CEO of Google. Everybody’s job is important; everybody’s role is important. And I believe that.
“I don’t know what you’re going through as the janitor at the high school. I don’t know what you’re going through as the CEO, but I think we’re losing the human element of sympathy and empathy.”
Luck explained his decision on Saturday:
"For the last four years or so I've been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab -- injury, pain, rehab,” he said. “And it's been unceasing and unrelenting both in-season and offseason. I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football. It's taken my joy of this game away.”
Sherman said part of the problem is how NFL players are viewed -- in their pads and helmets – as individuals who are different from everyone else.
“You may see them as something more than human, but they’re not,” Sherman said. “They’re flesh and blood. They bleed, they break. They have mental struggles. They have the ups and downs just like you do on a day-to-day basis. And I think if more people took that perspective, and took that understanding … then we’d have less people attacking them on social media.”
Luck was forced to sit out the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. He had been rehabbing an ankle injury throughout the entire offseason and training camp when he made the decision to step away. He left the field for the final time as a member of the Colts to a cascade of boos.
This is a very rough game. Most people who have not played at this level will never understand what we put our bodies through season after season. We don’t need the sympathy because this is what we signed up for but to “boo” a man that battled for that city is disgraceful.— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) August 25, 2019
“That situation shook everybody because it showed the ugly part of this sport,” Sherman said. “That’s a man who didn’t just rehab for him and his family, but he rehabbed so he could get back out there for the city of Indianapolis and go help them win games.
“And then to boo him like he was being selfish, when he’s been selfless this whole time, it’s one of those (things) where you’ve given people everything for so long that the moment you take one thing for yourself, you’re a bad guy. He’s given himself to the city and been selfless and taken nothing for himself, and the moment he takes something for himself it’s like he never gave them anything.”
Thank you Drew for everything you gave this game! You are an amazing teammate and an even better friend. Wish you nothing but the best in your next endeavor. I know you will be even greater in your next chapter— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) August 25, 2019