By Tim Booth Associated Press
RENTON — Even when others were suggesting he drop his case and accept his punishment, Richard Sherman never strayed from his steadfast belief that his four-game suspension would be overturned.
As unlikely as it seemed, Sherman was right.
The Seattle Seahawks will now have one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL available for the playoffs after Sherman won his appeal of a suspension for use of performance enhancing substances on Thursday.
Gone is the lingering question about a possible suspension that hung over Sherman and the Seahawks for more than a month.
“I know what the truth is and anybody else who knows anything knows what the truth is. The truth has been told today,” Sherman said on Thursday. “People can say what they want, there are always naysayers. I have great teammates and great coaches and great fans and that’s all I care about.”
The decision that was made by former NFL executive Bob Wallace came early Thursday morning. Sherman was called by his lawyer and simply announced in the Seahawks locker room, “I won.”
High-fives ensued. Sherman took to Twitter and let his 40,000-plus followers know of his result.
A team already rolling on the field with four straight wins and an offensive output unmatched in the last half-decade of the NFL got even more good news.
“There was obviously a good amount of stress because you just don’t know,” Sherman said. “You know how strong your case is, how strong everything is, but it was just great to get it over with.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email the league is reviewing the decision, but was declining comment due to confidentiality provisions.
Sherman was steadfast since news broke of his pending suspension that he believed he would win on appeal. Sherman’s appeal was based on errors in the chain of custody of his urine sample and that there were mistakes made by the tester.
His appeal took place late last week in St. Louis.
A copy of Wallace’s decision was obtained by The Associated Press. In his explanation, Wallace writes that the collection process of Sherman’s urine sample on Sept. 17, the day after Seattle beat Dallas in Week 2, was not ordinary.
According to the written decision, Sherman’s sample cup began leaking, to which the tester grabbed another cup and transferred the sample. Documentation of the leaking cup was not originally on the submitted report following the test and only when asked by a supervisor in October did the tester acknowledge the sample being transferred from the original cup.
The tester later gave testimony that he’d never experienced a leaking cup before, yet didn’t feel the situation rose to the level of needing to be included on his report.
Wallace wrote the omission of the leaking cup from the report was a “big deal,” and that, “insuring a sample is collected properly is the cornerstone of the program and when an event occurs that does not happen routinely or that the collector has never experienced while collecting the sample it is incumbent upon that collector to note what happened.”
“Accordingly, Mr. Sherman’s appeal is granted and the discipline is reversed,” Wallace wrote.
Sherman said when he got word on Nov. 12 of the failed test he knew it had to do with the sample collected in September.
“It was a weird day, a weird testing procedure,” Sherman said. “A lot of things went wrong on that day and that’s why the result came out the way it did because he made mistakes and he did things wrong.”
Seattle has played the last three weeks without fellow starting cornerback Brandon Browner, serving a four-game suspension for a banned substance violation.
Browner’s suspension expires after Sunday’s game against the Rams, so Seattle will have both of its starting cornerbacks for the postseason.
“It definitely feels good for him to take this journey and keep being on this team with us,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “We’re getting (Browner) back and the depth that we have and the young guys got a chance to prove who they are and it’s all just coming together for us.”
According to STATS, Sherman is tied with Pittsburgh’s Keenan Lewis for the NFL lead with 23 passes defensed. He is tied for second in interceptions with seven.
Sherman was a surprise omission from the Pro Bowl roster announced Wednesday. Despite his impressive numbers, Sherman was a first alternate at cornerback for the NFC, behind the Chicago duo of Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.
“I appreciate the league for allowing justice to be served and allowing me to continue to play,” Sherman said.