When Tedric Thompson talked to Earl Thomas this week, the veteran safety offered some brief and to-the-point advice to the second-year defensive back who will be taking over for Thomas at free safety.
"It was short and sweet," Thompson said. "Just have fun, play with confidence. That's pretty much it."
Thomas has never been a man of many words, so it's no surprise that he went the "short and sweet" route. But the All-Pro safety, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a fractured tibia, still managed to touch on the key theme to Thompson's ascension into the starting job. Players, coaches, Thompson himself—everyone is confident that the fourth-round pick out of Colorado is up for the task of anchoring the back end of Seattle's defense.
"We're extremely confident in T2, Tedric Thompson," middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "We were confident going into the season with him, with his ability and the things that he's shown throughout the preseason and everything else. Earl came back and you know obviously when he comes back, he's going to play. We have that same confidence. I think that the week Earl came back, T2 had like four picks at practice. He's a very hungry guy and we know he's going to come out there and be excited. He knows that people are probably going to be looking at him and I think he's up for the challenge."
As Wagner mentioned, one reason the Seahawks are so comfortable plugging Thompson into the starting lineup is that they saw him in that role throughout training camp and the preseason as Thomas was holding out. Thomas' return meant Thompson returned to a backup role, but Seattle's use of a dime package this year has allowed Thompson to still get a dozen or so snaps a game on defense as a sixth defensive back.
Now Thompson returns to the role he held until Week 1 of the regular season, and he's ready for his moment in the spotlight, even if that means being tested by the League's No. 1 offense with the Los Angeles Rams coming to town this week.
"I feel pretty comfortable with the fact that I've got trust coming from my teammates, so I feel comfortable," he said. "… I expect (to be tested by the Rams), but I feel confident."
Stepping into the starting role is just the latest step in what has been an interesting few months for Thompson, who went from starter to backup back to starter in the span of a month. With Thomas holding out, Thompson was a regular in the starting lineup throughout the summer, but he also knew that could change at any moment, and sure enough Thomas reported days before the season opener and went back to his starting job, something Thompson himself understood.
"That's the best safety in the game, hands down, so when he came back, I was trying to do what I did last year, just learn as much as I can from him, and he helped me out a lot," Thompson said.
And despite losing a starting job, Thompson continued to look to Thomas for advice, just as he had while he was the starter and communicating regularly with Thomas while the veteran was holding out.
"It's bigger than football," Thompson said of his and Thomas' relationship. "We met because of football, but it's definitely bigger than football. I talked to him yesterday, so I'm pretty sure we'll keep the same relationship."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did wonder how Thompson would handle going from starter to backup just before the start of the season, but was impressed by how a young player went about his business following that change.
"He did handle it well, and I was concerned about that, because he had really earned the play time through camp and all; Earl had earned it over a long period of time," Carroll said. "So I was concerned about him. We did talk about it, and he was strong about it. He was kind of, take it as it comes, and he was not downhearted. Maybe he was disappointed; he didn't show it. What he thought of it, 'I'm going to maximize the opportunities that I get.' It was soon after that we figured out how to get all three guys on the field and it worked out fine and he's been contributing in that way. Now that he's a starter, I'm sure he's excited about that. I haven't mentioned it to him specifically, but I'm sure he's excited about it and this is kind of the opportunity he was looking for. He's prepared for this the whole time. There was a bit of a setback just in terms of relying on him as the starter. He's seen a lot, he's learned a lot, and I'm really thinking he's going to handle this very, very well."
Nobody, not Carroll nor Thompson himself, expects him to come in and be Earl Thomas, that's not a fair expectation for a second-year player making his first start in place of an All-Pro who is considered one of the best players of his era. But if Thompson can just be himself, that can still lead to good things for Seattle's defense.
"He certainly has tremendous instincts," Carroll said. "There is no question, and that's why he has been so active playing the football. When you put those numbers up that he did in college when he was one of the best pass defenders and one of the most productive guys, you have to have a sense and awareness and the confidence that goes along with that, that makes up that way I guess you're saying. We're excited about his play and he's just growing. He's really mature about stuff, he has really worked hard to understand the scheme and the principles of what we want, and he plays really strict and disciplined football. So you put that all together, it makes for a chance to be a very productive player."
Photos from Wednesday's practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams.