RENTON The story of what Earl Thomas did during the first game he’s ever missed in college or the NFL is SO Earl Thomas.
“To be totally honest, man, I’m trying to put that behind me, bro,” the Seahawks’ three-time All-Pro free safety said on his way out to practice Thursday, three days before he’s expected to return against Carolina from a strained hamstring.
It will be his 119th start in the 120 games he’s been on the team since being Seattle’s first-round draft choice in 2010.
So, I thought, that was that. The end of my query of the notoriously intense Thomas and how he stewed while his team lost and he was out injured for the first time in his career. I mean, I’d just waited for 20 minutes behind him while Thomas stood facing into his locker with big, gray headphones on stretching and pulling and psyching himself up -- for a practice on a Thursday in December.
But then Thomas went on about his first football Sunday without wearing a Seahawks uniform -- and about watching his team lose at Tampa Bay without him last Sunday.
“It was definitely hard,” he said. “Luckily, I had my wife and my daughter there with me. It was definitely a tough time. Very emotional. But I went to Portland with my family. I kind of kept my competitive spirit going by going to the Trail Blazers game.”
Thomas attended Portland’s NBA win over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Moda Center downtown on Friday night. That was a few hours after his teammates left without him on their flight to Tampa. Thomas returned to the arena Sunday night to watch the Blazers, owned by Seahawks owner Paul Allen, play Thomas’ favorite team, the Houston Rockets. Houston is about an hour and 45 minutes west of Thomas’ hometown of Orange, Texas.
That Blazers-Rockets game started at 6 p.m. That was about two hours after Thomas’ teammates finished their frustrating loss across the country. While his Seahawks were starting their long flight back to SeaTac, Thomas watched his Rockets beat the Blazers 130-114. So at least that went his way last weekend.
“It was just, you know, trying to find a way to keep my mind positive,” Thomas said. “I knew I would try to make it back for this week. I’m just happy to be back out there. It was just ... it was just weird for me to see the team out there without me.
“I know it’s not all about me, but it’s just, I’m a part of the team. So it was definitely weird for me to see that.”
Was Thomas able to actually watch the game. Or was that too much for him, since he couldn’t do anything about what was happening in it?
“Yeah,” he said, “I watched it at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
Of course he did.
“Yeah, I had a hoodie on. Glasses. Me, my wife, my brother, my daughter.”
I was -- still am, really -- trying to picture Earl Thomas, three-time All-Pro free safety and Super Bowl champion, sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings with his hood up and sunglasses on while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a 14-0 lead faster than you can say “Another basket of Boneless with Carribbean Jerk, please.”
“I was into it. You can’t be silent. You can’t hide who you are when you are passionate about something like this,” Thomas said. “Luckily, people kind of knew who I was, but they kind of let me be.
“But it definitely hard, just watching it.”
Thomas said last Sunday was the first time since he was at West Orange-Stark High School back in Texas that he missed a game. He didn’t miss any while starring at the University of Texas, either.
“Back in high school I missed one game, against Orangefield,” he said. “I had, like, a thigh bruise. That was the only game.”
I asked him how hurt he must have been to not only miss the game but determine it wouldn’t even be worth dressing and trying to play last weekend.
“I knew I couldn’t really go,” said Thomas, who practiced fully on Wednesday for the first time since he strained his hamstring covering a long pass teammate Richard Sherman intercepted in the first half of the win over Philadelphia Nov. 20.
“I’m just still battling right now. I really don’t like to talk about it because I know what’s ahead of me (to be able to play for the rest of this season). Hopefully, you know, we’ll see.”