RENTON Something absolutely will be missing in the Seahawks’ defense at Tampa Bay this weekend.
Earl Thomas’ Seahawks-record streak of consecutive starts is over.
The team on Friday downgraded the three-time All-Pro free safety to out for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers (5-5) because of a strained hamstring. Coach Pete Carroll met with the team’s medical staff following practice and before the Seahawks (7-2-1) took off on their flight to Florida.
Steven Terrell is ready to make the first start of his four-year career against recently Tampa Bay’s hot quarterback Jameis Winston, who has 12 touchdowns and two interceptions over Tampa Bay’s last six games. That includes the Bucs’ upset win at previous 7-2 Kansas City last weekend.
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So ends Thomas’ streak of 106 straight starts in the regular season to begin his career, a Seattle franchise record for a defensive player. Including playoffs, Thomas had started 118 consecutive games since the Seahawks drafted him 14th overall in 2010.
I asked Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner on Wednesday if he can imagine what he’s now going to have to do Sunday in Tampa: Play without Thomas on defense for the first time.
“I cannot,” Wagner said.
“I’ve never played a game without Earl Thomas. Doesn’t he have some crazy streak of games?
“Yeah, I’ve never not looked back and seen 29 back there, so if he doesn’t play it’s going to definitely be weird.
“It’s strange. Especially a guy like that. He’s always talking. He’s always trying to alert you to things. That’s why it’s kind of like something’s missing.”
Thomas was running in coverage with teammate Richard Sherman in the third quarter of last weekend’s win over Philadelphia when he grabbed the back of his left leg. He left the game after the play on which Sherman intercepted Carson Wentz. Terrell, a special-teams mainstay, replaced Thomas for the final 1 1/2 quarters of that game.
Carroll had said earlier in the week Thomas and starting cornerback DeShawn Shead had similar hamstring injuries that normally take 10-14 days to heal.
The Seahawks list Shead as questionable. Carroll said Shead looked good in a test of his leg on Friday and will be a game-time decision. If he can’t start usual nickel back Jeremy Lane would start at cornerback with Neiko Thorpe likely to play there when Lane moves back inside to nickel on passing downs. That’s the arrangement the Seahawks used for the final three quarters of last weekend’s game after Shead’s hamstring pained him.
This was Carroll following Friday’s practice, before the team declared Thomas out.
Rookie seventh-round draft choice Joey Hunt was preparing for his first career start at center because Justin Britt hasn’t practiced all week. Carroll said Britt sprained his ankle in the win over the Eagles and will also be a game-time decision. Britt will dress, the coach said, and would be Hunt’s backup in Tampa if the three-year veteran isn’t healthy enough to start.
The Seahawks currently have only those two as centers on the roster.
Strongside linebacker Brock Coyle is doubtful because of a foot injury, but Carroll said he will test it pregame to see if he can play. Kevin Pierre-Louis would be an option there if Coyle cannot go.
Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett (arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago), running back C.J. Prosise (broken shoulder blade), running back Troymaine Pope (high-ankle sprain) join Thomas as out for Sunday. Rookie wide receiver Tanner McEvoy (toe) and defensive end Demontre Moore (foot) are questionable.