Seahawks safety Earl Thomas may be earning that new contract in an unusual way. One of the key players on the team’s defense could also be the team’s top punt returner for 2014.
Few took the possibility seriously in May, when coach Pete Carroll called Thomas the top option given the departure of receiver Golden Tate in free agency. In Friday night’s unofficial dress rehearsal for Week One, Thomas ripped off a 59-yard return. (He was caught from behind. By the punter.)
“It felt like normal,” Thomas said, via the Seattle Times. “It felt like anytime I get the ball I can make something happen. People are just so blind to the fact and stuck in their ways, but I love it because I’ve got a chance to shut everybody up.”
Only two other Seahawks players have returned punts in the preseason — cornerback Phillip Adams and receiver Bryan Walters. The officially unofficial depth chart shows Thomas as the top punt returner, with cornerback Richard Sherman at No. 2 and receiver Paul Richardson as the third option.
Receiver Percy Harvin, perhaps the most explosive and dynamic player on the team, remains the primary kickoff returner. In the past, he has struggled to comfortably field a punted ball.
While Thomas surely has the skill, the duty puts him at an enhanced risk of injury. The Seahawks seem to be willing to assume that risk.