Every week it seems like we hear something different about cornerback Richard Sherman and his appeals process with the league. Originally the NFL announced his four-game suspension case would be heard on December 14th, 11 days after the announcement was made.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, Sherman had the opportunity to push the appeals process back even farther, so he decided to do so. It didn't prove to be too much farther out as ESPN insider Adam Schefter tweeted that his hearing would in fact take place December 21st:
Appeal of the four-game suspension for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will be held Friday, two days before game vs. SF.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2012
Putting the appeal off for one week may not seem like a lot, but when thinking of it in the grand scheme of things, that extra week is vital. Especially considering Pete Carroll's Seahawks are amidst a neck-and-neck playoff run with the 49ers, Bears and Vikings for various seeding arrangements.
Right now Seattle holds the No. 5 playoff seed in the NFC with just two weeks left to play. The Seahawks have also won their last three games in a row, and there's no question the second-year corner from Stanford has been vital to their success this season.
Fellow cornerback Brandon Browner is currently serving his four-game suspension for the exact same offense as Sherman. However, Browner isn't eligible to return until the opening round of the playoffs, which would put Seattle's secondary in a bind if Sherman was found guilty of using Adderall without a prescription.
Marcus Trufant has missed the last two weeks with a bum hamstring, and Walter Thurmond also missed this past Sunday's game with a bum hamstring. Nothing like being snake bit in one area of your team all at once.
Moreover, it appears as if Sherman could be suspended immediately if the appeals commission comes to a decision on Friday:
If appeal upholds CB Richard Sherman's suspension Friday, he would be out vs SF, but there is no indication of timing on an appeal decision.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2012
A Friday decision would be a huge blow to the Seahawks' ability to properly game plan for Sunday night. Based on the unknown that lies ahead, Coach Carroll needs to prepare as if he won't have Sherman against the 49ers.
If that scenario rings true, Walter Thurmond would start at left cornerback—assuming he is all healed up and ready to go. Byron Maxwell would start at right cornerback and Jeremy Lane would man the slot.
However, if both Thurmond and Trufant are too dinged up, it will be Jeremy Lane at left cornerback, Byron Maxwell at right cornerback and Ron Parker in the slot. You could possibly see Earl Thomas play a little bit of corner as well, like he did last Sunday against the Bills.
A lot of different scenarios that would be likely possibilities in Week 16 were used Sunday against Buffalo, so it's safe to assume Carroll knew the appeals process was coming sooner rather than later. Many experts felt that the suspension could get pushed all the way into next season, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
If Sherman is indeed suspended for Week's 16 and 17, he wouldn't be able to return to the club until the Seahawks' third playoff game—assuming they make it that far. If they lose outright away in the postseason, Sherman's suspension would run into the 2013 season.
The good news is that Browner is eligible to return for Seattle's first playoff game.
Both Browner and Sherman are putting up impressive coverage numbers on the outside as well. I realize that their competition hasn't been overly stiff, but to notch significant playing time this late in the season can only help the Seahawks.
Come Friday, we will all be anxious to hear the verdict and its start date.