OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The last time Earl Thomas was in a Seattle Seahawks uniform, he sat on a medical cart with his broken left leg in a cast and his right middle finger extended toward the Seahawks bench.
The ugly finish to Thomas' tenure as a Seahawk last September ended a nine year stint as one of the league's best safeties, in the league's best secondaries. Now a Raven, Thomas will return to Seattle on Sunday to face the Seahawks for the first time as an opponent.
He’s mostly downplayed the situation, but Sunday will undoubtedly be an emotional game for both Thomas and the Seahawks organization.
“It doesn’t matter who I’m playing for, I’m going out there and trying to win,” Thomas said. “Maybe when I get to the visiting locker room and see how that feels, it’ll add something to that. But other than that, it’s business as usual. I’m going out there to compete and make plays.”
Thomas spent the entirety of his eventual Hall of Fame career in Seattle as a member of the ‘Legion of Boom,’ one of the most famous defensive units in league history.
But his time in Seattle eventually soured as the years rolled on and Kam Chancellor retired, Richard Sherman left town and the unit slowly faded into history.
That’s before things took a turn with Thomas’ contract and future with the team. After a holdout, he played in four games last season, totaling three interceptions, before breaking his leg and ending his excellent tenure as a Seahawk against the Cardinals.
“I feel like they’re were trying to phase me out, they were thinking more linebacker-ish,” Thomas said. “They’ve got the three-headed monster with K.J. (Wright), Bobby (Wagner) and (Mychal) Kendricks, obviously coach (Ken) Norton is the D-Coordinator. He’s a linebacker at heart. I understood what was going on.”
As for what reception he thinks he’ll get from the Seattle fans, he’s unsure, but hopeful.
“Hopefully they respect what I’ve done, get a couple of cheers and not too many boos,” Thomas said. “But whatever happens, happens. Hopefully it’s love.”
Thomas has made a big impression on the Ravens just six games into his four-year contract, especially when a player of his stature signs with the Ravens.
But the way his tenure ended in Seattle is still on the minds of everyone, including a few of his teammates.
“Since Earl’s been here he’s definitely been a pretty calm-mannered guy,” Marlon Humphrey said. “He’s been there for a long time. The thing that flashes, to me, is the little finger thing. I think there will definitely be a little tension there.”
Thomas said hasn’t planned to talk with anyone pregame and instead he’ll wait for it to happen naturally instead.
But he did say that various members of the Seahawks organization have kept up with him throughout the course of the season.
“Especially guys on defense, some of my old coaches, some of the strength and conditioning staff,” Thomas said. “I’m sure during pregame, or warmups, if I see some guys and we start a conversation, I’m not going to go out there and not talk to anybody.”
Good memories are much easier to come by for Thomas. He was a three-time First Team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Second Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion in Seattle. He paired with Chancellor on the back-end to create one of the most dominant safety pairings in NFL history as the duo helped lead Seattle to the postseason five times.
The ugly way Thomas' tenure ended is still on the minds of everyone, but was closure, in a way. And Sunday represents the official closing of the book of his story in Seattle.
“I won so many games there, I grew up as a young man there, started when I was 20 years old,” Thomas said. “I’m always going to respect that organization and I’m always going to be a part of it.”
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