Sad is the word here.
That’s the most apt description of the once-revered Seahawk’s descent. Seeing Earl Thomas’ name in the news these days doesn’t spark joy or inspiration anymore. It almost always prompts the question, “What did he do this time?”
On Friday, the seven-time Pro Bowl safety was arrested in Texas for violating a court protective order. Police said the violation occurred when he sent threatening messages to his ex-wife about her and their children. The 33-year-old faces a third-degree felony for multiple violations over the past year, with his ex telling police that he sent texts saying he had obtained two handguns and another saying he would “kick [her] ass.”
Thomas’ lawyer told the Austin American-Statesman that the arrest warrant came as a result of him reaching out to see his kids. Maybe. Can’t make a judgment without knowing all the facts. But with Earl, the benefit of the doubt has been rapidly disintegrating.
Nine years ago, Thomas was the best safety in football and perhaps the most talented member of Seattle’s vaunted defense. He had a different personality, but his honesty and quirkiness (the man wore a crown to his wedding) endeared him to the public.
Super Bowl champ, three first-team All Pros, a beautiful bride and a $40 million contract — it couldn’t get much better for Earl Thomas. Now, it just seems to keep getting worse.
Seahawks fans’ attitude toward Thomas first shifted when he shifted his attitude toward the team. Despite signing a contract that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL, he spoke regularly of being “disrespected” because the Seahawks wouldn’t extend him with two years left on his deal. He even approached former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett after a game in Dallas in 2017 and asked him to, “Come get me.”
To be clear, Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have never extended a player with more than one year remaining on his contract. Still, Thomas sat out of practices in 2018 because he didn’t feel the team was “invested” in him, and when he broke a leg in his final game as a Seahawk, he infamously flipped Carroll the bird while being carted off.
But Thomas is an exceptional talent. And in pro sports, talent trumps just about anything. So despite Earl’s antics, the Ravens signed him to a four-year $55 million deal in 2019 … which was the final year he played.
Yes, he made the Pro Bowl that season for a team that went 14-2. But in August 2020, he punched teammate Chuck Clark during an altercation at practice and was released for “personal conduct that has adversely affected the Baltimore Ravens.” No team has signed him since. The Texans thought about it but passed on Thomas after several players reportedly said they didn’t want him on the team.
It’s OK for fans and former teammates to feel hostility toward Thomas. He has made decisions that have prompted resentment at several stops. But there has to be an element of sympathy as well. This is an all-time great who is sabotaging his legacy and, if the latest allegations are true, his personal life.
I’m not sure Thomas would be well-received if he made an appearance at Lumen Field anytime soon. I wonder if he has ruined his chances of joining the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor. Not that those should be his primary concerns right now. Seems getting his life together should be Priority 1.
The world of sports is replete with comeback stories. Ryan Leaf became a successful football analyst. Michael Vick did, too. I just wrote a column on former Sonic Spencer Haywood, who is thriving after overcoming a cocaine addiction that derailed his career.
If Thomas pulls a turnaround over the next few months or years, there would be little reason not to embrace him. It just seems like a big “if” right now.
Nobody questions Thomas’ contributions to Seattle’s Super Bowl win. Nobody questions his Hall of Fame-caliber talent. But there is a big question regarding how his life will go from here.
Earl pointed a certain finger in his final game with the Seahawks. Given everything that’s happened since, folks should cross their fingers that he ends up OK.
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