Earl Thomas was back in pads as the Seahawks began practice on Tuesday. So was cornerback Richard Sherman, as the Legion of Boom began to look a little more whole. But Kam Chancellor? He still was nowhere to be seen.
RENTON — An injury that undoubtedly has resulted in some restless nights for Seahawks fans alternately might have given Earl Thomas a little peace.
Thomas, the starting free safety who is a four-time All-Pro first-team selection and the last line of the defense, put on pads and returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery Feb. 24 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Thomas suffered the injury — which included a dislocation — while making a tackle during the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay.
For the first time since Super Bowl practices he was able to join his teammates on the field, running through individual and team drills. Because he is working his way back into things, he wore a red, no-contact jersey and sat out of the final 11-on-11 sessions.
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Still, it was a step in the right direction for Thomas. He hopes to play in the season opener at St. Louis on Sept. 13.
Thomas was non-committal on whether he will play against the Rams.
“I’m not sure,’’ he said. “I’m just happy that they have taken the handcuffs off of me and let me kind of do my job. That’s all I can control right now.’’
What he was more certain of is that the injury — and being able to come back from it — helped rekindle his appreciation for football.
Thomas said not being able to play was “very tough. A lot of negative thoughts in my mind. You know, I was debating it if I still loved it at one point. But being out there today, it reassured me that I love it. I just need to be out here. Be involved.’’
Asked what made him question his love for football, Thomas said: “I just think the way that I play the game. I was a little burnt out. I just thank God. I needed this. I hated that it turned out to be an injury. But just battling through all these adverse situations, it got me back to where I needed to be.’’
Thomas said those feelings were reinforced when he took the field Tuesday.
He was taken off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list Aug. 5. That allowed him to take part in walk-throughs. Until Tuesday, though, he had not put on pads and a helmet for a full practice.
As practice began Tuesday, he received warm handshakes and welcomes from teammates such as Michael Bennett, then took his usual spot at the front of the line of safeties going through warm-ups.
“I felt like a little kid again just running around out there,’’ Thomas said. “It felt good.’’
Now to get the shoulder feeling similarly.
Thomas has been one of the more durable Seahawks players since entering the NFL in 2010, starting all 80 regular-season and 10 postseason games. Few around the team expected that streak to end, even when some reports indicated skepticism about his readiness for the season.
Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the team was devising a plan to make sure Thomas will get enough work to be ready for the Rams and that it was still realistic to think he could play in that game.
“Trying to make sure we can get enough days to get him right, and get him the work that he needs so he can play, and we’re shooting for the opener,’’ Carroll said.
Asked what he needs to see from himself to know he would be ready for the opener, Thomas said “well to me, I think I’ve seen all I need to see today. I was flying around. But we’ll see.’’
Thomas noted he was able to raise his arm like normal to snare passes during practice.
“I’m just happy that I can raise my arm and catch the ball at the highest point right now,’’ Thomas said. “ … You saw me on deep balls. I think I did a pretty good job.’’
Thomas said he doesn’t need to play in any preseason games or take hits on the shoulder to be ready for the Rams.
“I just need to be mentally prepared,’’ he said.
Tuesday brought him another step closer. Though Thomas had been an active presence on the sidelines the first few weeks of training camp, said he had mixed feelings about filling a role as temporary mentor to younger players.
“I was trying to be happy for them, but I was fighting demons in my head,’’ he said. “It just felt good to be back out here again today.’’