Earl Thomas discussed his rehab process, what it's like watching the Seahawks as a fan and what ultimately drove him to return to football in a live chat with The Seattle Times on Thursday.

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After suffering a broken leg against the Panthers on Dec. 4, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas managed to scare the NFL world in under 140 characters.

“This game has been so good to me no regrets.. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers,” his tweet read.

Just minutes later, another star safety replied to Thomas on Twitter with another message. One that became a key reason for Thomas’ decision to return. Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu tweeted a simple but compelling message at Thomas: “We will never give in or up… no matter what. Text me!”

Twenty days after his injury, Thomas tweeted that he planned to return next season: “I’ll def be back next year..”

Thomas filled in that timeline in a live chat with The Seattle Times on Thursday, saying initial reaction and the tweet from Mathieu gave him a new perspective — one he hadn’t considered.

Thomas said he hadn’t realized just how big his footprint was in the NFL, saying he was surprised by how people reacted to him considering retirement. He also said seeing the Seahawks’ defense without him was a factor in his decision to return.

“I just miss the game. When you hear players reach out to you, you never know how you touch people and the way you do things,” he said during the chat. “Tyrann Mathieu tweeted at me saying he needs the competition. I’ve never had this vantage point before. All that has made me decide I want to keep growing.”

He added that he misses the competition and being a part of the Seahawks’ defensive “machine,” adding, “I really believe I know how the machine works, and I control it best.”

Thomas called the rehab challenging but said he doesn’t feel much pain and added that he’s able to move around by himself.

“It’s like a roller coaster,” he said of the rehab. “You have good days and bad days, but these last seven days have been all good days, so I feel like I’m on the come up.”

With his new vantage point, Thomas has also taken on a role he’s unfamiliar with: Earl Thomas the fan. Thomas spends games watching and live tweeting, reacting and cheering, alongside other fans.

Thomas said it’s hard not being out there with his teammates, and it’s even harder to evaluate how they look without him.

“It’s hard for me to describe,” he said, when asked about the team’s recent defensive performance. “When I watch it, I don’t really know what to expect. I just watch like a fan watches it.”

Thomas will watch the playoffs like a fan for the first time since joining the Seahawks. Since he was drafted in 2010, the Seahawks have made the postseason the past five years. He’ll be on the sideline Saturday night at CenturyLink Field and said he expects Seattle’s front seven to dominate the Lions. He also expects Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to test the Seahawks’ secondary.

But while Thomas likes the Seahawks’ chances against Detroit, he said they are different without him patrolling the secondary.

“You’ve got to have all your parts, and we don’t have all our parts.”