DENVER—Four days after returning to the Seahawks following a holdout that covered all of training camp and the preseason, Earl Thomas was in the middle of the Seahawks' defensive backs huddle during pregame warmups, helping get his position group fired up along with fellow safety Bradley McDougald prior to Seattle's season opener at Denver.
For the next three hours or so, Thomas was able to put behind him any contract concerns and enjoy being back on the field again with his teammates during Seattle's 27-24 loss to the Broncos, and he did so looking like his All-Pro self despite having only three practices under his belt.
"During the game, I'm not thinking about it," Thomas said of his contract. "I'm out there having fun with B-Mac and the guys. I'm not thinking about it during the game.
"The guys welcomed me back with open arms. It was a smooth process. The coaching staff gave me my space to get through it."
And Thomas didn't waste much time making his presence felt. First he broke up a Case Keenum pass on Denver's opening possession, a play that nearly resulted in an interception by McDougald, who would more than make up for that missed opportunity with two interceptions later in the game.
On Denver's next possession, Thomas intercepted Keenum, returning the ball to the 15-yard line to set up a one-play touchdown drive for the offense.
"I basically stayed with it, read the QB—he stared the target down and I jumped in front of it," Thomas said of his interception. "I thought I had a pick-6… It felt good, I haven't had one like that in a minute."
Thomas, who finished the game with five tackles, was on something of a pitch count, being held out for one series in the first half and three plays to open a series in the second half, but said he felt good coming out of the game.
"We rested him as much as we could and he still took a lot of plays in the game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I don't know his number yet, but he had to be out of there, we couldn't play him the whole time.
"We were just trying to gauge it as we went and try to not overload him and not give him too many plays at any one time, so the guys just switched him in and out based on what happened. It wasn't like numbers of plays as much as just how he had to endure when he was on the field and how he was bouncing back. We just had to take care of him. … He didn't want to come out. He wanted to play the whole game. He was awesome about it."
Overall, Carroll was pleased with what he saw from Thomas, both in terms of how he played and in how he and the team handled his return this week after a long absence.
"It's terrific having him back," Carroll said. "He's a terrific football player. He handled the return and our players handled the return perfectly. He worked real hard, they embraced him coming back in, we knew we couldn't play him the whole game, but we wanted to give him a great chance to contribute and he did immediately. He just handled it as well as you could handle it, and so did our players. So we're off and running and we're looking forward to next week."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 2018 season opener against the Denver Broncos.