It became official last week that Earl Thomas’ most infamous act in a Seahawks uniform also was his final one — his middle-finger salute to the Seattle bench as he was carted off the field last September at Arizona with what he knew was a broken lower left leg.
Thomas had been silent from that night until last week, when he signed a four-year contract worth up to $55 million with the Baltimore Ravens.
And maybe it’s always been obvious what was going through his mind when he was carted off the field, given his training camp holdout and obvious desire for a new contract from the Seahawks that he never did get.
But his first words explaining it were published Monday in Peter King’s Football Morning In America column, and he made clear exactly for whom the gesture was intended.
“A lot of frustration that day,” Thomas said, via King. “I was in a battle with the team, and I chose to play, and I was betting on myself. So when it happened, it just added to my frustration. I did what I did, and I saw Pete Carroll, and I just was like, ‘You won. You won.’ Just a very disappointing day.”
Indeed, for all Thomas knew, in that moment he had lost millions of dollars because the injury — similar to one he suffered to the same leg in 2016 — potentially could have muted his attractiveness on the free agent market.
And in his interview with King, Thomas spoke even more concretely about what his plans were before he got an offer from Baltimore that ended up being in line with the top of the safety market.
Thomas told King he was ready to accept — “with regrets,” King writes — a $12 million one-year guaranteed contract with another $1 million in likely-to-be-earned incentives with the Kansas City Chiefs, who were in the process of releasing Eric Berry and apparently before they then signed Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year, $42 million contract.
“The Ravens were never in the picture,” Thomas told King, reiterating a comment he also made Friday. “I was shocked. I was blessed.”
King reports the deal with the Ravens came together in two hours and 10 minutes — and as was noted last week, it was a pretty basic one, with nothing but a $20 million bonus and then base salaries for the next four seasons, Thomas getting $32 million guaranteed in all, all in the next two years.
Thomas’ comment further confirms why Baltimore was never mentioned as a contender for Thomas in the run-up to free agency (it’s thought the Seahawks and Thomas never talked).
But as King notes, the Thomas saga also shows why even the players and agents themselves never know for sure what will happen once the free agent negotiating period gets underway.
Signing with Baltimore means Thomas and Carroll will cross paths again next season as the Ravens are scheduled to play the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in 2019 — dates of games are not yet set but should be official in April.
Carroll, though, long ago shrugged off any offense at Thomas’ actions that night.
On his radio show the day after the game on ESPN 710 Seattle, Carroll joked he wasn’t sure who the finger was meant for because “it’s a big stadium.”
Then he said people should “give him a little slack.”
“People that are criticizing whatever happened don’t understand that this is an earth-shattering moment for a kid,’’ Carroll said, saying Thomas “went right to what it’s going to take to get back. He had it all just totally figured out and this is as emotional as you can get. Give him a little slack. This is a very, very difficult moment that most people would never understand what it’s about.”
Thomas was later fined $10,026 by the NFL, the standard fine for a first offense unsportsmanlike conduct violation.