San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman tackles Wayne Gallman Jr. of the New York Giants on Nov. 12, 2018, at Levi's Stadium. (Chris Victorio / Special to S.F. Examiner)

Richard Sherman returns to Seattle for first time as 49ers-Seahawks rivalry takes new shape

Three short years ago, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers shared one of the most bitter rivalries in all of professional sports as the pair of NFC West franchises competed for Super Bowl bids for three consecutive seasons.

With Richard Sherman in the middle of most of the drama, the former Seahawk now dawns red and gold after being cut from Seattle’s roster in March.

In his first trip back to Centurylink Field, Sherman and the 49ers will look to spoil a playoff push for the Seahawks, who are currently battling for a wildcard spot in the playoffs.

Along with that, here are three things to watch for when the 49ers take on the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football.

Sherman making his return to Seattle

On March 9, the Seahawks released Sherman after he’d undergone a “minor” surgery on his left Achilles tendon. It was the second procedure Sherman had performed in the previous six months, after a complete reconstruction was done on his right Achilles the previous October.

Only days after being cut, Sherman was already on a plane to meet with the brass of his new team: the San Francisco 49ers. Now 13 weeks into his first season with his former rival, Sherman is making his first appearance back in Seattle where there is no love lost between him and his former team, which cut him after seven years, seven playoff wins, two Super Bowl appearances and the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

“It was unfortunate [how it ended]. But everything has to come to an end,” he said. “You just expect after you’ve done so much for a football team that they wouldn’t cut you while you’re hurt … It’s kind of more of a respect thing than anything. But you have to roll with the business … They’ve rarely ever cut anyone while they were hurt.”

All that said, this Sunday isn’t any more or less special than the other games Sherman has played this season.

“It’ll be good to get back there and see some old guys and old faces,” Sherman said. “But it’s football. Football is football. Just go out there and do my job.”

Can the 49ers play spoiler to Seattle’s playoff hopes?

Dating back to 2011, the Seahawks had made postseason appearances in six consecutive seasons until missing a playoff berth in 2017. This season, Seattle is back in the mix as they hold the second of two wildcard slots with a 6-5 record.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “Whenever you have a sound defense, when you commit to the running game and you have a quarterback who makes some plays, they’re in just about every game they play in and it comes down to the wire.”

This season, the Seahawks have played in five games that were decided by three points or fewer, the most in the NFL this season. In those games, they are 3-2, including a three-point loss to the NFC-leading Los Angeles Rams (10-1).

While the 49ers have not won a game at Centurylink Field since a 33-14 win on Dec. 24, 2011, the chance to spoil Seattle’s season will surely provide some additional motivation.

No Marquise Goodwin

For the second week in a row, the 49ers will be without their most productive receiver due to “personal reasons,” according to Shanahan.

Goodwin was excused from the team last week for undisclosed reasons and has been officially ruled out of Sunday’s game against Seattle.

“He’s going through some serious things that have happened,” said Shanahan. “I’d like to let him tell them and not me. Unless he tells me he wants me to. But, family concerns and things like that.”

Last season, Goodwin and his wife, Morgan, suffered the loss of a prematurely born son. The abrupt death of their child forced Goodwin to miss several days of practice before returning to play against the New York Giants in the 49ers 31-21 Week 10 win.

During that game, Goodwin would catch an 83-yard touchdown pass for his only reception of the game.

While it is unclear as to what is keeping Goodwin from the field this season, the 49ers continue to be supportive of his circumstances to this point.

“He tried to come in yesterday. Came to a meeting and I met with him after and we talked for a while,” Shanahan said. “He just didn’t seem like he was in a good spot. I thought it’d be better for him to go be with his family right now, and he agreed. We’ll reassess it after the game and where we go next week.”

This season, Goodwin leads all 49ers wide receivers with 339 yards on 17 receptions. Surely, San Francisco will be missing the former Olympian’s ability to stretch the field and take the top off of defenses.

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