Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Richard Sherman on Ahkello Witherspoon: ‘He’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time’

Sep 8, 2019 at 5:59 PM--

It was a great sight for the Niners Faithful seeing third-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon just about seal the victory for the San Francisco 49ers with his pick-six late in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One, it meant an opening day win for the 49ers — their first Week 1 victory since 2016 and first Week 1 road win since 2014. Two, it meant that Witherspoon, who had an up and down season last year, might be the cornerback the team hoped him to be when head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch used a third-round draft pick to select him in 2017.

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, who arrived in San Francisco last year, always believed in Witherspoon. He doesn't see a difference in the 24-year-old cornerback's skill. What he does see this year is a difference in Witherspoon's approach to the game.

"Ahkello is the same player, don't get me wrong," Sherman told reporters after the game. "He was a good player last year. It's just his mentality, and his approach has changed. He was a talented, incredible player last year. He had a few bad plays and a few mistakes here and there, and he was a victim of just some busts, some coverage busts, where the touchdown or the play wasn't even necessarily his fault. It was, hey, the safety was supposed to be there. He's not there, or this happened, or we called it different coverage.

"But this year, he's learned to overcome those things mentally. He's learned to just fight through and not let it emotionally hijack him. Like he's just, 'Next play. I'm going to do my job the next play regardless of what happened on the previous play.' He could have had a pick-six, or he could have had a touchdown. He's going to get past it; he's going to play great the next play, and that's growth.

"He's going to be a great player in this league for a long time, and I'm just so proud of him today and the way he battled, and the way he showed up."

The 49ers walked away from Raymond James Stadium with the 31-17 victory over the Buccaneers. San Francisco will remain on the road and face the Cincinnati Bengals on September 15 with next week's kick-off from Paul Brown Stadium scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT (1:00 p.m. ET).

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