Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed what was feared a day earlier when All-Pro safety Earl Thomas went down with a fractured tibia in Seattle's 40-7 win over the Carolina Panthers. Thomas, who prior to missing Seattle's Week 12 game with a hamstring injury, had never missed a game in his NFL career, will be out for the rest of the season.
"He's got a serious recovery that he's going to have to go through, it's going to take a while," said Carroll, who later added that there's "no shot" of Thomas getting back this season.
Asked how Thomas is handling the most serious injury of his NFL career, Carroll said, "He seems to be doing OK. He's handling it. He's responding and he's doing all right, he's trying to deal with it."
And while the Seahawks will miss everything Thomas brings to the team, they are also confident that Steven Terrell will play well in Thomas' absence. Terrell, who has been with the Seahawks since 2014, started his first game last week and played well, and also saw significant playing time in Seattle's Week 11 game against Philadelphia when Thomas left with a hamstring injury, then again Sunday after Thomas left with his injury in the second quarter.
"Steven has played a lot," Carroll said. "Steven has played in three games now. He's been out there playing with Kam (Chancellor), and they've been doing quite well. Everything has been going fine. Steve has been with us a long time, so he knows how things work around here, he knows the principles and concepts. He's really equipped, he's really fast, he covers a ton of ground and all that. He's a very disciplined football player. He has been a really active special teams guy for us for years, so this fits together. We're fortunate to have Steven stepping up.
"He has been a backup safety and he has played some corner for us as well, played nickel. He has been a core special teams guy for a number of years, and he has been working at our stuff and practicing with us all along and been in all those meetings, and he has gotten tons of work. We're very confident in him. He's a very disciplined kid, he's really strict to the rules and concepts and principles, he does a really nice job of holding up his end of it. He's a good communicator and all of that. And again, he has played three games for us and did a lot in those games; he has been very active."
That speed and range, Carroll mentions, combined with discipline, is crucial for a player being asked to take over for Thomas, whose ability to take away big plays in the passing game makes him one of Seattle's most valuable defensive players.
"It's really important, because we're playing a lot of three-deep (coverage), and you've got to cover a lot of ground out there," Carroll said of Terrell's speed. "We've had guys who don't have 4.3 type speed play over the years, but it sure helps.
"It's being in the right spot and seeing routes and playing the coverages to the strengths of them, and being accountable, really being in the right spot. Our safeties are very, very strict with how we play back there. You've got rules and concepts and principles, and he has to adjust things by formations and principles that can move as motions and shifts move. There's a lot going on back there, and he's really good at it."
Other than Thomas, the only significant injury to come out of the game is the concussion sustained by fullback Will Tukuafu, who is now in the league's concussion protocol. Carroll did say that Kam Chancellor "got banged a little bit" in the collision that also led to Thomas' injury, though Chancellor did stay in the game.
Tight end Luke Willson, who missed Sunday's game with a sprained knee, "will be ready to go this week," Carroll said.
Running back C.J. Prosise, who has been out since Week 11 with a fractured scapula, is still being evaluated to determine if he will be able to make it back for the postseason.
"We're going kind of in two-week increments right now, seeing how he's progressing," Carroll said. "It'll be another two weeks from today that we'll make another evaluation to see how he's coming along, that's to gauge whether or not he'll be able to make it back if we're fortunate enough to be in the playoffs."
Get close to the Seahawks with these sideline photos from the 40-7 victory over the Panthers last night at CenturyLink Field.