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I came across the following when I read the article:

“If I’ve burned bridges,” Sherman says, “they’re not in this building.”

What does "they" refer to?

I have the following interpretations, not sure which is right:

  1. This building (Seahawks team) is very welcoming to strong personalities, so I have offended nobody here.
  2. The people got offended by me are outside the team, not my teammates and staff.
  3. The people got offended by me are already gone.

    [UPDATE] Thanks so much for the quick response, I am awed to you guys of your considerateness and thoroughness.

Now I read that sentence comfortably like this: "If I've burned bridges, the bridge burning was never in this building."

I am to click the accept button to @Robusto as the answer came up first.

@Peter, are you a 12th? Hat off and hug.

  • "They" just refers to the bridges. – stangdon Jan 5 '17 at 21:41
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    If you read the text after that point in the article, you'll see it's mostly about "questionable" things Sherman said or did either earlier in his career or at a different location. The implication being that none of these metaphorically "burned bridges" (actions which will prevent him from returning) happened in the building where he's speaking. – FumbleFingers Jan 5 '17 at 21:48
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It probably means Sherman feels he hasn't alienated anyone from inside the organization. The "they" refers to the bridges, which here serves as a figurative reference to relationships (see metonymy).

  • I'd say more a figurative reference to people, which he indirectly represents as "bridges" because of the idiom. The distinction is useful here because his sentence is a clever play off on the usual interpretation of "burn bridges". – Andrew Jan 5 '17 at 21:51
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    @Andrew: Obviously when I said relationships I was talking about relationships with people, which is what the reference to "anyone from inside the organization" means. – Robusto Jan 5 '17 at 23:30
  • There's a difference between saying "I burned my bridges, but they're all with other people" (which is common) and "I burned my bridges, but they all are other people" (which is not at all common). Even a native speaker might miss the nuance. – Andrew Jan 5 '17 at 23:34
  • Forgive me if I sound argumentative -- ordinarily I disapprove of nit-picking as much as the next guy. But in this case I think the distinction is significant enough to be specially noted. – Andrew Jan 6 '17 at 0:04
  • Yes, you do sound argumentative. And worse, your point is not clear. – Robusto Jan 6 '17 at 2:12
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In the idiomatic expression

burn bridges

the "bridges" refer to relationships one has and "burning" them is to break or destroy those relationships. In his interview, Richard Sherman, outspoken Seattle Seahawk cornerback, acknowledges that he can be abrasive at times (thus "burning bridges"), he describes it as

"a majority of the time it’s calculated. I’m doing this to make a bigger point."

The reasons for his Sherman's harsh criticisms of staff and teammates is

"It’s honestly his biggest asset—the emotional way he approaches the game"
“Wanting to win is my justification for everything. All I can do is be myself.”

which is an attitude his coaches and teammates respect.

By "building", it identifies the interview as being given at a Seahawk facility, and the "building" is anyone on the organization, both literally and figuratively.

Sherman was saying that what he does is well respected, though the "form" may be harsh, these were characterized as

"On another team, with another cast of characters, it was a scene that might have ripped apart a locker room."

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