Earl Thomas actually considered leaving football immediately after breaking his left leg in a collision with a teammate last year, an injury that ended his 2016 season. He even said as much on social media.
Looking back on it now some six months later, the Seattle Seahawks’ star free safety believes it was simply the shock of suffering such a major injury.
“I think it was definitely the shock of the moment. Especially when I felt like that was one of my best seasons I was having in my career,” Thomas said as Seattle started its mandatory minicamp Tuesday. “And I had the pick in my hand. Right then it’s gone. This is my foundation, my legs. And for my legs to be broken, I never went through anything like that.”
Thomas is well ahead of where the Seahawks projected him to be in his recovery from the injury suffered last December in a blowout victory over Carolina. Thomas collided with teammate Kam Chancellor as each tried to intercept a pass from quarterback Cam Newton, leaving Thomas with a broken tibia and a sour disposition.
His future is no longer in question. Same with his return to the Seahawks lineup. Thomas estimated he’s about 80 percent of full speed, but he has exceeded what the Seahawks thought he’d be able to do at this point of the offseason program. There is little doubt he’ll be completely ready to go when the Seahawks begin training camp next month.
“It’s really been a cool thing to see because I knew he wanted to find out himself and he’s been able to discover that he’s in good shape and making progress toward camp,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Thomas has been a constant in Seattle’s secondary since he arrived in 2010 as the second draft pick made by Carroll and general manager John Schneider. He started 106 consecutive games, a streak that was snapped last season when he sat out against Tampa Bay due to a hamstring injury.
A week later, Thomas broke his leg and Seattle was never the same on defense the rest of the year.
Thomas said he was given the option of surgery or letting the injury heal naturally. He opted to avoid the surgical option. The plan was to bring him along slowly through the offseason program, but once Seattle got on the field Thomas was able to do more than expected.
“Early on when we first got out here I wasn’t sure but I tested it out just to see,” Thomas said. “When I’m in walkthroughs that’s easy. When everyone is out here running around full speed that’s when you can really gauge what is happening.”
It’s a similar case for Chancellor, who underwent surgery on both ankles in the offseason to remove bone spurs. Chancellor did both procedures at the same time, which kept him in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks.
“I’m where I thought I would be due to working with the trainers to get me back in tip-top shape,” Chancellor said.