Three days into training camp, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas felt like he was still easing into things. After all, Tuesday's practice was Thomas' first in pads since he broke his leg eight months earlier.
"I'm just easing into things right now," Thomas said. "I haven't been in pads in a very long time. It kind of felt different in weight because we've been playing seven-on-seven basically the whole camp, but I'm easing into it. I got a lot of great work in one-on-ones, the receivers kind of got the best of me today, but I'll be back to fight tomorrow."
And while Thomas felt like he wasn't at his best, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been very impressed with the way his team's free safety has come back from the first injury of his NFL career that caused him to miss significant playing time.
"He's flying," Carroll said before decided he needed to repeat his praise of Thomas. "He's flying."
Thomas, one of the longest-tenured players on the team, is heading into his eighth season in the NFL, but Carroll doesn't see a player who has lost a step, not even after breaking his leg.
"I told Earl this morning that he looks in better condition and faster than I've ever seen him since, it must have been year one or two or something like that," Carroll said. "The last three or four years, this is the best he has ever been. He put his mind to it to get back and make sure he was really ready to go. He was really determined to recapture the game and affect his teammates. Shoot, he looks great. He's not missing a thing."
When last season ended, it was far from a sure thing that Thomas would be on the field for Day 1 of training camp, but he recovered quickly enough not only to make it back for camp, but to also participate in some of Seattle's offseason workout program. Thomas even briefly contemplated retirement right after the injury, but now he's in a good place both mentally and physically, which is very good news for a team that missed his presence in the back end of its defense late last season.
"It was very difficult," Thomas said of being sidelined for the first time in his career. "I just tried to stay positive. I think I used Twitter as a coping mechanism just to shoot my thoughts out there, but it was different and it was difficult."
Thomas has moved past those negative thoughts, and along with fellow veterans in the secondary, including a just-extended Kam Chancellor, he's ready to show that the Legion of Boom is still right in the middle of its prime. And yes, for those four defensive backs the Seahawks drafted this spring, that means the current starters have no intention of giving up their jobs anytime soon.
"It's gonna be hard for them to start; that's what I was thinking initially," Thomas said of seeing his team draft four defensive backs, including a pair of safeties. "But then you switch over to another gear and you have to help them, because late in games, or late in the season if somebody else goes down, these guys have to be able to come in and help us out. That's why we always have this motto of 'each one, teach one.' They can't miss a beat."
And based off what he has seen from veterans like Thomas, Chancellor and Richard Sherman, Carroll agrees that those rookies, while an important part of Seattle's future, will have their work cut out for them to carve out immediate roles on defense.
"We had an opportunity, it was a very good class of guys, so we took them," Carroll said. "But they will be here for the future, and for these guys to grow up under the guys who are playing here, you can't get better tutelage. We'll see how far they can take it. We are just getting days into camp, I don't know anything about them yet, but they'll have chances. They're going to have a chance to play soon. That's our thought. I don't think Kam is going to let them, Earl is not going to let them, Sherman is not going to let them, but that's the way this goes. It was not a statement, we were not making a declaration. We took the guys we liked in the draft."
Photos from the third day of 2017 Seahawks training camp practice at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.