Seems the only Seahawk who might think Earl Thomas could be retiring is … Earl Thomas.
Sunday night, the three-time All-Pro safety broke his tibia in the win over Carolina. On Tuesday, Seattle put Thomas on injured reserve.
On Wednesday, coach Pete Carroll emphasized the broken leg does not put Thomas’ career or even his ability to return in 2017 in jeopardy.
“This is an injury you recover from. It just takes a long time. I don’t think it’s a big question like, ‘Will he ever make it back?’” Carroll said as the team’s preparations began in full for Steven Terrell to start for Thomas at free safety Sunday at Green Bay.
“He’ll be OK. We just have to take the time to do it. This is not weeks. This is months on this one, so it does take some time. But at this point he does have that time.
“So we’ll be very optimistic about him being able to get back.”
Thomas created this issue by posting on his Twitter account during the first half of Sunday night’s game, moments after he’d learned he’d broken his leg colliding with teammate Kam Chancellor trying for an interception of Carolina’s Cam Newton.
Thomas’ tweet said: “This game has been so good to me no regrets.. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers.”
He reinforced that retirement thought in a text message Monday to ESPN’s Ed Werder: “I’m taking it one day at a time. I still feel the same way I felt (Sunday) night.”
But back inside Seahawks headquarters, Thomas’ fellow three-time All-Pro in the Seattle secondary doesn’t think his 27-year-old teammate is retiring.
Asked if he expects Thomas to come back to play in 2017, Richard Sherman said: “Yeah, yeah. I expect him to come back.”
Carroll has not put an exact timeline on Thomas’ recovery, and Wednesday again said he wasn’t sure if the star needed surgery. ESPN reported Thomas texted Werder that he doesn’t need surgery and is having his leg immobilized to try natural healing.
Sherman mentioned, in passing, “six months” while talking about Thomas’ recovery.
“There are not a lot of stories out there, and that’s a big one. So they are going to talk about that until they can’t talk about it anymore,” Sherman said of Thomas possibly retiring.
“He’s just been hanging out. He was in good spirits the last time I talked to him.”
Terrell has been talking to Earl Thomas for years, as his protégé.
“Earl, he’s a good teacher. He kind of teaches in his own way,” Terrell, a former Texas A&M Aggie, said of his former archrival Texas Longhorn.
“For me, I learn more from him just asking questions, his mindset about things and how he sees certain situations and little things in our position, like reading the quarterback. Or, ‘What is the first thing you do when you watch film?’ Little things like that. That’s what I’ve gotten the biggest advantage from Earl.”
And he’s had tons of time to listen. For his first three seasons with the Seahawks starting in 2014, no one had an idler job in the NFL than Terrell. Thomas never missed a game in that span.
Two weeks ago Thomas’ team-record streak of consecutive starts (118) for a defense player ended at Tampa Bay when he had a strained hamstring. Terrell got his first career start. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston targeted the middle of the Seahawks’ zone coverage Thomas usually locks down, for two quick touchdowns in the first quarter. The first was Mike Evans’ curl route in front of Terrell, who was deeper on the back line of the end zone. Seattle lost 14-5.
Last weekend went far better for Terrell, and for the Seahawks. He had an interception in the third quarter when Newton trying to throw deep to tight end Greg Olsen and then returned it 55 yards to the Panthers 30. But offsetting penalties negated the play and the pick. That didn’t matter; Seattle won by 33.
Now, with Thomas out for the season, it’s Terrell’s time. The Seahawks signed free-agent Jeron Johnson this week for a second stint with them, and Carroll said Wednesday Johnson will get work at both strong and free safety. But it’s Terrell’s starting job at free safety.
“Obviously when somebody goes down, especially one of your brothers that you’re so close with, it’s tough. It was pretty tough hearing the news,” Terrell said. “But for me, it was like, I need to step up, come in and do my job, do my part in this team and do the best I can to fill in for him.”
He knows without the best free safety in football back there, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and every other quarterback the Seahawks face the rest of this season are going to target No. 23 in the back middle of Seattle’s defense. The man nobody in the NFL expected to be playing the most important games of this or any Seahawks season next to Chancellor.
“I feel very prepared,” Terrell said. “Just talking with Kam and Sherm and Coach Richard, having a great coach in (defensive coordinator Kris) Richard, and being in the system for a few years, I feel pretty confident.
“It’s been good to learn behind Earl and see how he reacts to things and his style of play. There’s not many people in this league get a chance to learn from one of the best in this game.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle