Seahawks safety Earl Thomas good-naturedly nudged a reporter off the “Legion of Boom” floor mat that lay in front of his locker.
“Now don’t be stepping on my rug,” he joked.
On Sunday, however, Thomas’ instinct for territorial protection will become fiercely authentic. In this season of dizzying expectations for the Seahawks, one unit in particular embodies the combination of size, speed and aggression they hope marks a team uniquely positioned to soar.
It is their incendiary secondary, which comes with a catchy nickname (one they chose amongst themselves, characteristically) and a kindred spirit. Though the personalities are disparate, from the flamboyant Richard Sherman to the stoic Brandon Browner, they are collectively, in the words of strong safety Kam Chancellor, “a brotherhood.”
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And don’t think that their deep bond – which connects a first-round pick like Thomas and Canadian Football League refugee like Browner — is insignificant. Though it may manifest itself in seemingly trivial ways, such as the customized “Legion of Boom” rugs that decorate the lockers of Thomas, Sherman, Browner and Chancellor, there is unanimity in the organization that camaraderie off the field breeds cohesion on it.
“They’ve been through a lot and kind of grown up together,’’ Coach Pete Carroll said. “They are a very connected group. They spend a lot of time in the offseason, they hang together, they’re great friends and all of that.
“But they also understand the power of being connected. The ability to communicate with one another, help one another, cover for each other, and all of that stuff. I think it’s an exciting part of our makeup. Those guys kind of take a lead in really championing the cause for being together, so they can hopefully perform better than they would otherwise.”
Prior to last week’s exhibition finale, at the behest of Thomas, the Legion of Boom was introduced en masse, a practice they plan to continue at all home games.
They have taken numerous vacations together, to destinations like Miami and Lake Chelan. When Sherman was the only member of the Seattle secondary to not make the Pro Bowl in 2011, the other three paid his way to Honolulu.
During idle time, they often head to the driving range together to hit some golf balls, and like any group of pals, they stand up for one another. Don’t even try, for instance, to ask Browner about some of Sherman’s provocative comments during the offseason, because he doesn’t want to have any part of that conversation.
“That’s my buddy, man,’’ he said. “I love that dude.”
Not that it was always smooth. The dynamic of blending their personalities progressed through the usual feeling-out process required by alpha males to establish boundaries.
“At the beginning, we kind of bumped heads here and there, because everyone wants to lead and stuff,” Chancellor said. “But we figured each other out, and the sky’s the limit now. We’re just learning each other more and more every day.”
The fact they settled on a shared goal both hastened and strengthened the connection.
“We want to be the game-changer,” Chancellor said simply.
With the Legion of Boom, it’s a classic case of the sum being greater than its parts, which is what can happen when you meld four guys with varying sizes of chips on their shoulder. Thomas was deemed by some too small to play safety. Sherman and Chancellor had to wait until the fifth round to be drafted, while Browner wasn’t drafted at all.
Perhaps that’s why Thomas felt that rather than be introduced last, as was customarily the case for the safety, they should run out together. All for one, and all that.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about anybody. It’s about the collective group, and what we’ve got going and what we set out to do,” he said. “I think that was a big statement.”
“We work together as one, as a unit, we want to be dominant as a unit, so we’re going to come out together and celebrate as a unit,” Chancellor added.
Browner, ominously, was limited in Wednesday’s practice by a hamstring injury of unknown severity. If he can’t go in Sunday’s opener against Carolina, then Walter Thurmond would likely step into the starting job at right corner.
The Legion of Boom core has taken care to be inclusive of the other defensive backs, mindful that the secondary goes beyond this quartet, celebrated as they may be.
“There’s no legion of four,” said defensive backs coach Kris Richard. “I’ve never heard of one. It’s everybody.”
Backup safety Chris Maragos mused that the reserves to the Legion of Boom be called “The Aftershock,” adding, “We’re all trying to have our part.”
There’s no telling how long the Boomers will stay together, with only Chancellor locked up long-term, a five-year extension signed in April. Browner is eligible for free agency after this season, Sherman and Thomas after 2015.
But for now, as the Seahawks near the start of a season of great promise, they will try to proceed with a single heartbeat.
“What better way is there to do it than together, as one?” asked Richard.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry