Three time zones and an entire country away, Earl Thomas was still Earl Thomas.
During a news conference Friday morning in Baltimore in which he was officially introduced as a new member of the Ravens, the now-former Seahawk wore a white Nike track suit that drew comparisons to a Star Wars stormtrooper while dropping a few of the same kind of “Earl-isms’’ Seattle fans grew accustomed to during his nine seasons helping lead the Legion of Boom.
“I’m here to do what I always do, and that’s ball,’’ Thomas said at the news conference, which also featured running back Mark Ingram, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta as the team announced its two marquee free-agent signings. Thomas signed a four-year deal with the Ravens this week worth up to $55 million with $32 million guaranteed and $22 million by the end of the 2019 season, the kind of big deal he was not going to get with Seattle.
Thomas, though, lobbed no real barbs at the Seahawks, handling diplomatically a question about getting to return to Seattle for a game with the Ravens this fall at CenturyLink Field (dates of games won’t be announced until April).
“I want to have a good game,’’ Thomas said. “I definitely want to ball out. Just taking it one game at a time, one practice at a time, one session, one walk-through. We’ll see what happens.’’
If Thomas ending up in Baltimore caught many around the league by surprise — the Ravens were never really listed as a possibility with the favorites thought to be Dallas, Kansas City and San Francisco — Thomas sounded a little surprised, as well.
“It was last minute,’’ said Thomas, who came to the agreement with the Ravens on Wednesday morning after two other free-agent safeties also signed big deals — Landon Collins with Washington and Tyrann Mathieu with Kansas City.
“I didn’t expect the Ravens to even give me a chance. I didn’t hear about the Ravens throughout the whole process. I actually thought I was going somewhere else. But they just came at the last minute.’’
Where that somewhere else was, Thomas wasn’t asked during his news conference.
But in a separate interview posted later on the Ravens’ official website, Thomas elaborated, saying he thought he was headed to Kansas City on a one- or two-year deal. But those plans apparently changed after the Chiefs signed Mathieu and then the Ravens came calling.
“I was just going to bet on myself and hit the market again,” Thomas said of being willing to accept a short-term deal from the Chiefs. “And then my agents called me … and I talked to them on the phone and they said ‘Baltimore has a major deal for you.’ And I said ‘hell yeah, that’s where I’m going.”’
Thomas’ comments further confirm that the Seahawks were never in the picture.
DeCosta intimated that the Ravens got serious about pursuing Thomas after losing star linebacker C.J. Mosley, who agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal with the Jets on Tuesday.
Thomas also basically now steps in as a replacement for 34-year-old veteran Eric Weddle, whom the Ravens had released the week before. Intriguingly, Weddle then signed with the Rams, a team rumored to have been interested in Thomas before signing Weddle.
“You have to stay flexible and you have to adjust and you have to juggle a lot of different balls at the same time,’’ DeCosta said. “And we swooped in. We’ve got good relationships with agents and good relationships with a lot of different people and we saw an opportunity and we made a move.’’
In Baltimore, Thomas joins an already-stout defense that ranked first in the NFL last year in fewest yards allowed and second in fewest points allowed.
He said he expects to be the same player he always has been, having made six Pro Bowls and been named first team All-Pro three times in nine years in Seattle, despite suffering season-ending injuries to his left leg two of the past three seasons. Thomas had surgery after an injury last September to insert a rod into his leg — he declined having surgery after a similar injury in 2016, deciding instead to let it heal on its own.
“I don’t think they are a factor at all,’’ Thomas said of his injuries. “Experience is the best teacher. I have been through this process before with this injury and I came back and went to the Pro Bowl, had an All-Pro year (Thomas was named to the second team in 2017). I expect the same thing this year.’’
Asked about the process that led him to Baltimore, which included holding out all of the preseason last year, Thomas said the lesson was “just bet on yourself. Just bet on yourself and keep the faith. There are going to be ups and downs. Gonna hear the critics. But you’ve just got to rise.’’
Thomas had to make a deal with Baltimore cornerback Marlon Humphrey to get to wear his familiar 29 with the Ravens — he said he would likely donate to a track team that Humphrey’s mother operates as a thank you.
But if he is going to wear the same number in Baltimore as in Seattle, he said everything else about the Seahawks is being left in the rearview mirror, batting away any potential comparisons between the secondary he will be a part of with the Ravens and the one he helped lead for the past nine years.
“I’ve just got to get used to the guys (in Baltimore), man,’’ he said. “Get in the lab and get to work. I can’t harp on the LOB (Legion of Boom). That’s in the past.’’