Head coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that Thomas would be the team’s punt returner if they had to play a game this week. The team is searching for a replacement for Golden Tate, who signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason. Tate had 51 returns for 585 yards for Seattle last season.
“If we had to start today Earl Thomas would be the first guy back there, and he’s really excited about that,” Carroll said. “He’s a guy that has the most (punt) catches for us.”
Thomas said he’s been lobbying Carroll for a long time about the opportunity to return punts.
“I’ve been waiting on this opportunity,” Thomas said. “This is what I do – I’m an athlete. I’ve been trying to tell Coach Carroll to put me back there for the longest (time). I always try to go back there during walk-throughs, just to try to sneak a punt return, show them who I am and I want to score a touchdown.”
“This is perfect opportunity for me to score a touchdown. I’m an offensive guy at heart. That’s why I don’t try to go out-of-bounds when I catch interceptions.”
Thomas returned punts sparingly during his college career at Texas, but did have a 50-yard return against Kansas. He also had two kickoff return touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns during his high school career. However, he hasn’t done it yet at the NFL level.
Carroll said Richard Sherman would be next up with receivers Bryan Walters and Percy Harvin also in consideration. Though Harvin has been a prominent kickoff returner, he hasn’t returned punts. Rookie Paul Richardson may also get a chance.
It could be a bit surprising to see Thomas, an All-Pro safety, possibly putting himself in harm’s way as a punt returner. But Thomas isn’t worried about that.
“This is my future. I can help this team and I know I can,” Thomas said. “…I want to show everybody who I am and I want to be able to impact the game as much as possible. This is a great opportunity. I just need to capitalize on it.”