If columnist Matt Calkins were a Seahawks coach, teammate, executive or fan, he couldn't help but feel slighted by Earl Thomas' actions.
I wish I was disrespected the way Earl Thomas is.
When I’m cramped up in coach, or when my building jacks my rent up, I envy that figurative slap in the face the Seahawks are supposedly giving him.
Thomas sure loves making that claim, doesn’t he?
Two years after the Seahawks made him the highest-paid safety in the league, he told ESPN that they “don’t respect me like they need to.” When he ended his holdout just before the regular season earlier this month, he noted on Instagram that “the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten.”
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It’s obvious his feelings are genuine. It’s clear the Seahawks refusal to extend his four-year, $40 million contract infuriates him.
But has he ever considered that he has been the disrespectful one? Because if I’m a coach, teammate, executive or fan, I couldn’t help but feel slighted myself.
This isn’t about the holdout. I can respect a holdout. The NFL is among the most ruthless professional sports leagues in the world, and if players want to try and use leverage to better themselves financially, fine.
It worked for Walter Jones throughout his career. It worked for Marshawn Lynch, too. Those are legendary Seahawks who will be beloved by their fans for the rest of their days.
But Thomas is a little different. There was the infamous incident in Dallas last year, when he told Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to “come get me” despite Seattle being in the midst of a playoff race. There was the odd quote after Week 1, when he said he was going to “protect myself until I do get paid.”
And then there was Friday, when he mysteriously didn’t practice despite being on site and in good health.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll cited a “personal reason,” and since I don’t have all the information, I can’t condemn him. But based on how it looks, I’d be willing to bet a month of my ever-increasing rent that it’s about his perceived lack of respect.
If I’m a truck driver working 60 hours a week just to feed and shelter my family, I’m not sure I’m wearing Thomas’ jersey anymore. And if I’m a Seahawk making a fraction of what the fifth-highest paid safety in the NFL is bringing in, I’m not sure I have a lot of empathy for Thomas’ frustration.
The Seahawks’ front office made a choice. It likely figured that with Thomas being 29 and the team being several pieces away from playing at a championship level, extending him at an enormous asking price wasn’t worth it.
Right decision? Who knows? But it was an understandable one. And for Thomas to stew in its wake while collecting massive paychecks could only be described as disrespectful.
How this will all play out this year is to be determined. There are many who feel Thomas will be traded after the Week 3 matchup with the Cowboys, so that the Seahawks won’t have to face him.
But what’s more fascinating to me is how Carroll will handle Thomas if he stays on the team but still creates drama.
Pete’s treatment of star players has come under question before. He never disciplined Richard Sherman despite a clear demonstration of insubordination in 2016. And a recent Sports Illustrated story noted how discontented players felt quarterback Russell Wilson received special treatment. What would be the protocol with Earl?
Maybe that’s an unnecessary question. Maybe Thomas will be traded soon, or maybe he’ll thrive over these next 14 games with Seattle and there won’t be another morsel of tension.
Somehow, though, I don’t envision the latter scenario taking place.
There is a lot to admire about Earl Thomas. He’s among the hardest-working and most talented safeties to ever play. He is also one of the most candid athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with.
But it’s hard for me to feel bad for a guy earning an average of $10 million a year to do what he’s dreamed of since childhood.
The Seahawks have shown him respect. That respect should be mutual.