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Tuesday in Hawkville: Earl Thomas as punt returner?

Posted May 27, 2014

All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas has been lobbying Pete Carroll to get his hands on the ball. It must have worked as the Seahawks’ coach says the line to replace Golden Tate as the punt returner will form behind Thomas.

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for May 27, when the Seahawks held the first of their 10 OTA sessions:

WORDS OF THE DAY: PUNT RETURNER

Who replaces the departed Golden Tate as the Seahawks’ punt returner?

“If we had to start today, Earl would be the first guy back there,” coach Pete Carroll said after the first of the Seahawks’ three OTA sessions this week.

That would be Earl Thomas, the team’s two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl free safety.

“He’s really excited about that,” Carroll said.

Excited might not be the proper term, as Thomas says he’s been lobbying for the role for a while. There is an opening, of course, because Tate signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency after averaging 11.5 yards on 51 punt returns last season, which ranked fifth in the NFC and ninth in the NFL last season.

“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting on this opportunity,” Thomas said. “This is what I do. I’m an athlete. I’ve been trying to tell coach Carroll to put me back there for the longest. I always try to go back there during walkthroughs. Just try to sneak a punt return, just to show them who I am.

“I want to score a touchdown. So this is my perfect opportunity.”

And it’s not Thomas’ maiden voyage as a punt returner. He did it during his final season at the University of Texas, when he averaged 18.0 yards on three punt returns.

“My first time ever returning I almost scored,” he said. “I just got tripped up by the punter.”

Now, Thomas just views it as one more element to his already impressive game and another way to help the team.

“I want to show everybody who I am,” he said. “I want to be able to impact the game as much as possible. This is a great opportunity for me. I just need to capitalize on it.”

Carroll also wants to get looks at wide receivers Bryan Walters and Percy Harvin, as well as All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman in the role.

“I’m anxious to see how Bryan Walters fits into that,” Carroll said. “He’s got experience in his background. Percy is out there vying for it. Sherm will tell you he’s the best one, and he catches the ball really well.

“He and Earl would take it right now.”

WORD OF THE DAY, NATIONAL EDITION: CLASSY

As Peter King wrote in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” at SI.com, “There are two ways to look at” how the Seahawks handled the signing and release of sixth-round draft choice Garrett Scott, the tackle from Marshall who has a rare and previously undetected heart condition.

YOU DON'T SAY

“No. No. I could care less about that stat.”

Coach Pete Carroll when asked about the Patriots being the last Super Bowl champion (2005) to win a playoff game the following season and whether he had studied why that is

Here’s what else King wrote: “You can say they blew it with their pre-draft investigative work on him. Or you can say it correctly – no one knew about the rare heart defect Scott had, and it never affected him in his college career, and, once the team found out, the Seahawks did a noble thing.

“Seattle doctors found the heretofore undiscovered heart defect in Scott – one that hadn’t shown up at Marshall or in the NFL’s pre-draft screenings – once he came to Seattle last week. Instead of releasing Scott because he’s not going to be able to perform this season, and maybe ever again, Seattle GM John Schneider first signed Scott to a four-year contract, with a $100,000 signing bonus.

“This enables him to go and see different experts,” Schneider said Saturday, “and allows us to either assist in getting him back on the playing field in 2015, or helping him transition to his post-football career. We’re just blessed that our docs dug further into the player and hopefully helped save a life.”

PLAYER WATCH: DOUG BALDWIN

It was impossible to not watch Doug Baldwin, as the fourth-year wide receiver put on a show along the shores of Lake Washington.

STAT DU JOUR: ROOKIE FREE AGENTS WHO BEAT THE ODDS

During the Seahawks’ visit to the White House last week, President Barack Obama mentioned the number of free agents the Super Bowl champions had on their roster. Here’s a look at the players on the current roster who made the team as rookie free agents in the first four seasons under coach Pete Carroll, and those looking to join the group this year:

2010: none

2011: WR Doug Baldwin, LB Mike Morgan

2012: S Jeron Johnson, WR Jermaine Kearse, CB DeShawn Shead,

2013: OT Alvin Bailey, DE Benson Mayowa

2014 rookie free-agent class: QB Keith Price, S Dion Bailey, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, LB Brock Coyle, OG Bronson Irwin, DT Andru Pulu, OG Nate Isles OT Garry Gilliam, TE Rashaun Allen, TE Chase Dixon

Baldwin got behind cornerback Byron Maxwell to make a catch on the sideline and took it all the way to the end zone. Baldwin then beat cornerback Phillip Adams for another sideline reception and added catch over the middle in the 7-on-7 drill. But Baldwin saved his best for last, as he made a one-handed grab of a pass from Russell Wilson against Sherman.

“Doug has been a tremendous player,” Carroll said of the receiver who led the team in receptions as a rookie free agent in 2011 and finished second last season. “When you go back and look at the last few years, and look at the significant plays that have happened, he’s been a part in a lot of big stuff. He continues to always be at the front of making everything happen.

“He did it again today. He had a great day today. He’s just such a great worker and such a disciplined competitor that he brings it every chance he gets and it shows.”

LINEBACKER SIGNED

Horace Miller, a linebacker from UTEP who participated in the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, has been signed. The 6-1, 210-pound Miller fills the roster spot that opened when Scott was released.

UP NEXT: OTAs CONTINUE

The Seahawks also will hold OTA sessions on Wednesday and Friday. The remaining OTAs are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday next week and then June 9-12.

From 7-8 p.m. on Wednesday, punter Jon Ryan will sign autographs at D.J.’s Sports Cards in Renton – 1630 Duvall Ave. NE.

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks