RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks may have parted ways with their best cornerback this offseason, but for Doug Baldwin, that meant parting ways with one of his best friends.
Don’t worry: He’s made peace with it.
Baldwin, now one of the few remaining pieces from the Seahawks team that won Super Bowl XLVIII, told Q13 News that while there’s no pretending the Seahawks aren’t a different team now, he thinks they’ll be just fine.
“It is different,” Baldwin said. “There’s a large void there. We had a lot of leadership that was just natural, honestly, especially on the defensive side of the ball, obviously. Those individuals challenged the entire team. Whether you want to say it was good or bad, they did push our entire team to maximize our potential. That element is missing – I shouldn’t say missing … it is missed – but there’s guys who can step up and fill that void on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think it gives us an opportunity to breathe, and find that new talent, that new leadership, and hopefully continue where we left off.”
Baldwin and Sherman were teammates at Stanford, where Sherman played wide receiver until moving to the defensive backfield his senior year. They both joined the Seahawks in 2011 – Sherman as a fifth-round pick, and Baldwin as an undrafted free agent – and they both shot through the ranks from unheralded rookies to All-Pros and Super Bowl champions in remarkably short order.
Sherman, however, is now a San Francisco 49er, while Baldwin remains in Seattle as one of the key veterans overseeing a team in transition.
“Let me not gloss over the fact that we’re missing a lot of those crucial guys who built a championship environment and culture here,” Baldwin said. “So I don’t want to gloss over that and make it sound like it’s easy to forget those guys, cause it’s not. They helped us build something that has never been done here before.
“That being said, I am excited about the new faces and the new energy, the fresh vibe that you feel. There’s a youngness to it, a sense of urgency that I’ve got to prove myself.”
Baldwin said even through there had been some speculation that Sherman’s time in Seattle might come to an end during the offseason, he was taken aback.
“I didn’t anticipate it actually happening, coming to fruition,” he said. “I was actually on vacation and I told myself I was gonna unplug. Unfortunately, right when we got there is when I heard the news. It’s hard to take something in like that, because we’re still human beings at the end of the day. Richard’s been one of my best friends since college, and we’ve grown up in the environment together, in this system. We’ve really been through a lot: Blood, sweat and tears, and a championship. You can’t take that for granted, you can’t take that lightly.
“So, it was a sad day. That’s how I found out, honestly, and the conversations after that were ‘nothing’s going to change, we’re still family,’ but obviously we get to face each other twice a year now.”
Sherman’s exit came in the same offseason that saw Michael Bennett head to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril both announcing their playing careers were over amid injuries. There was significant turnover on the coaching staff as well, as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was replaced by Brian Schottenheimer, offensive line coach Tom Cable was replaced by Mike Solari, and defensive coordinator Kris Richard gave way to Ken Norton Jr.
It was a serious shakeup for a team that went 9-7 last season – with three of those losses being decided by three or fewer points.
“I don’t want to speculate, but I will address the notion that there (the season was decided by) a few missed field goals,” Baldwin said. “There was a lot of plays that we missed last year – offensively, defensively, there’s a lot of things that didn’t go our way, a lot of things that we didn’t have control over and that we didn’t capitalize on. So, I don’t want to put if off on just one position or one player or one instance. I think there was a lot of things that we didn’t do well as a football team last year.
“As one of the elder guys in the locker room, I take responsibility upon myself of making sure we’re focused on those moments and that we’re not having those lapses in judgement and crucial mistakes in crucial moments.”
Baldwin will have to wait to match up with his former teammate; both of the Seahawks’ games against the 49ers come in December. Seattle will play host on Dec. 2, then head to San Francisco on Dec. 16.
“I am very excited about it,” Baldwin said. “I don’t want to talk it up too much because that’s my brother, I love him to death, I’d do anything for him. He knows how I feel about him, and the utmost respect that I have for him. When it comes down to gameday, that respect will still be shown.
“Now, obviously, as a competitive nature, just as we battled out here on the practice field, it’s going to be a battle on gameday. And I’m looking forward to it, but I know he is as well.”