RENTON, Wash. — 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.
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.
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.
Titans’ Johnson plans to play vs. Jags
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The only game Chris Johnson has missed in the NFL came when Tennessee sidelined the running back in 2008 to prep for the playoffs.
He isn’t about to let a sore right ankle sideline him now.
Johnson said Thursday he will play in Sunday’s season finale against the Jaguars (2-13). He hurt his ankle in last week’s 55-7 loss in Green Bay and missed a second straight practice Thursday.
The running back already has 1,187 yards rushing this season despite an offensive line missing four starters from the preseason. He would need one of his best games to do it, but Johnson could join Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith as the only NFL players to run for 7,000 yards in their first five seasons with 168 yards rushing.
LeBeau intends on returning to Steelers
PITTSBURGH — Armed with a promise from his beloved defensive coordinator that he wouldn’t retire without first informing his players, Ryan Clark threatened to avoid Dick LeBeau.
“I didn’t want to hear it, so I’ve told him, ‘If you try to leave, well, you didn’t see me and tell me, so you can’t,’” said Clark, the Steelers’ free safety. “‘That would make you not to be a man of your word, and I know you as such.’”
Clark needn’t worry. The 75-year-old LeBeau has every intention of returning in 2013 for what would be a 55th consecutive season in the NFL.
LeBeau opened his first meeting of the week with his defense by telling players he’ll come back for a 10th season as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator.
LeBeau, a Hall of Famer, publicly will only say his status is in the hands of head coach Mike Tomlin. But with the defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL for the second consecutive season and fifth time in nine years, there’s little reason to think Tomlin would make a change.
McElroy has concussion; Sanchez to start for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets’ wacky quarterback situation took yet another twist.
Greg McElroy has a concussion — which he didn’t reveal until Thursday — and will be replaced by Mark Sanchez as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback in the season finale at Buffalo on Sunday.
Coach Rex Ryan walked into his news conference before practice, took the podium and opened with: “You’re not going to believe this.”
McElroy, preparing to make his second NFL start in place of the benched Sanchez, was lifting weights Thursday morning and started experiencing headaches, Ryan said. McElroy went to the team’s training staff and then revealed he was suffering concussion-like symptoms after being sacked 11 times in the Jets’ 27-17 loss to San Diego last Sunday.
McElroy and head trainer John Mellody then went to Ryan to tell the coach the news.
“We come to find out that Greg wasn’t exactly truthful with our training staff after the game,” said Ryan, who acknowledged he was “stunned” to hear it. “He never disclosed that he had symptoms after the game to our trainers. Right now, he’s being evaluated for a concussion.”
Jared Allen returns to practice for Vikings
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jared Allen returned to practice for the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday after missing the previous practices because of an illness.
Adrian Peterson was held out for a second straight day, but the Vikings have been giving the star running back days off during the week as a matter of routine throughout the second half of the season.
Peterson says his sore abdomen will not limit him in the season finale against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield also was held out to rest.
Defensive end Brian Robison practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day after missing the game against the Texans with an injured right shoulder. Coach Leslie Frazier says Robison is the only one of the group questionable for Sunday.
Police: Brent’s BAC 0.189 at time of crash
DALLAS — Police say Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent had a blood-alcohol content level more than twice the legal limit after the crash that killed teammate and friend Jerry Brown.
A crash report released by Irving police on Thursday says Brent’s BAC was measured at 0.189, well above the Texas legal limit of 0.08. Authorities searching Brent’s Mercedes sedan also seized an unopened bottle of Cognac liquor, along with “multiple receipts” and the title to the car.
Brent was indicted Wednesday on one count of intoxication manslaughter in the Dec. 8 crash. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, though he could also receive probation.
His attorney, George Milner, did not immediately return a phone message.
Weeden, McCoy still sidelined for Browns
BEREA, Ohio — Browns quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are not practicing again because of shoulder injuries.
Coach Pat Shurmur said both remain sidelined as Cleveland prepares for Sunday’s season finale against Pittsburgh. Weeden and McCoy were hurt last week against Denver.
Third-stringer Thad Lewis took all the snaps with the Browns’ first-team offense in practice on Wednesday, and it’s possible he will make his first career start against the Steelers if Weeden or McCoy don’t improve.
Shurmur has not yet ruled out either of his QBs. The team signed free agent quarterback Josh Johnson, who would back up Lewis if Weeden and McCoy can’t play.
Rookie running back Trent Richardson is also missing practice with a sprained ankle. He and McCoy were both injured in the closing seconds against the Broncos.