Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed Monday that free safety Earl Thomas is out for the season with a broken tibia.
At halftime of Sunday night’s Seahawks’ win over the Carolina Panthers, Steven Terrell tried to offer Earl Thomas a few consoling words.
Thomas, who suffered a cracked tibia early in the second quarter, didn’t want to hear it, instead rerouting the conversation, offering Terrell a few tips about taking over the spot that Thomas has manned as well as anyone in team history since arriving in 2010.
“That’s classic E, though,’’ Terrell said later. “Not worried about himself, just trying to help me out.’’
Monday came the official news that Thomas will indeed miss the rest of the season with a tibia injury, meaning Terrell will now take over as the free safety for as long as the Seahawks play in 2016.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said what would be expected — that he thinks the Seahawks can continue on their path despite the loss of Thomas, who among other accolades has been named to the Pro Bowl the last five years.
“We’ve been through so many instances where guys step out and guys step in,’’ Carroll said.
But Carroll also acknowledged that “I don’t think you’re going to replace Earl Thomas…. We’re going to play Steven at the spot and he’s going to do the best he can.”
While Terrell, a four-year veteran out of Texas A&M, does that, Thomas will embark on rehabbing from what is the first injury he has suffered to cause him to miss a significant portion of a season (Thomas also had shoulder surgery following the 2014 season to repair a torn labrum suffered in the NFC Championhip game against Green Bay).
“He’s got a serious recovery he’s going to have to go through,” Carroll said. “It’s going to take a while.”
While Carroll said he did not know if Thomas would need surgery, later reports, including one from the NFL Network, said Thomas will not need surgery.
More unclear is whether there is any reason to wonder about Thomas’ football future.
Thomas tweeted before the end of the second quarter Sunday night that the injury would make him consider retirement.
In a statement to ESPN’s Ed Werder Monday, Thomas didn’t back down, saying “I’m taking it one day at a time. I still feel the same way I felt last night.” Werder tweed that Thomas’ “future remains uncertain.’’
Carroll appeared to downplay that possibility when he was asked about the tweet on Monday.
“I can’t help you on that,’’ Carroll said. “I know it’s really generated a lot of curiosity. He’s going through, at the time, the emotional part of dealing with an injury that’s a serious setback. I don’t know much more about it than that.”
Werder also tweeted Thomas as saying “you have to remember my team is still fighting I don’t want to become a distraction.’’
Thomas has two years remaining after this one on a four-year, $40 million contract he signed in 2014, which included $25.725 million guaranteed and currently makes him the third-highest paid free safety in the NFL.
Thomas had made 106 consecutive starts with the Seahawks before missing the game at Tampa Bay on Nov. 27 with a hamstring injury. Thomas said the only other time he had missed a game in his football career was at West Orange-Stark High in Orange, Texas, when he had to sit out once due to a thigh bruise.
Thomas said dealing with missing the Tampa Bay game was hard enough that he decided to take his family to Portland to watch two Trail Blazers’ games so he could keep “my competitive spirit going’’ calling the weekend “a tough time. Very emotional.’’
Carroll said he had spoken to Thomas on Monday and that “he seems to be doing okay. He’s handling it. He’s responding and he’s doing all right. Just trying to deal with it right now.”
Thomas was injured when his shin appeared to collide with the leg of teammate Kam Chancellor as each tried to defend a pass from Cam Newton to tight end Greg Olsen. Thomas was attempting to pick off the pass, cutting in front of the play.
Carroll said Chancellor also “got banged a little bit in that same play.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman said that as Thomas lay on the ground, all he wanted to do was point out that “that was a hell of a break by me.’’
“And it was,’’ Sherman said. “It was a perfect break.’’
Now, Sherman and Chancellor will have to play their most extended time without the other remaining founding member of the Legion of Boom — Thomas and Chancellor each arrived in 2010 with Sherman coming aboard in 2011.
Terrell got what was the first start of his NFL career against Tampa Bay, a 14-5 loss to the Buccaneers. He then played final two-and-a-half quarters against Carolina after the loss of Thomas.
Terrell entered this season with just one career tackle on defense. But he has been a fixture on special teams since singing as a free agent on July 26, 2014 after having been waived by Houston (originally an undrafted free agent, Terrell also had a stint with Jacksonville in 2013).
Terrell was listed as having a 4.34 time in the 40-yard dash coming out of Texas A&M and Carroll said that speed makes him a good fit for replacing Thomas. Carroll also noted Terrell’s experience in Seattle’s system.
“Steven’s been with us a long time so he knows how things work around here,’’ Carroll said. “He knows the principles and concepts. He’s really equipped, really fast, he covers a lot of ground and all that. He’s a very disciplined football player and really active special teams guy for us for years. This fits together and we’re fortunate to have Steven stepping up.”
Carolina attacked the middle of the field on the first play after Thomas was injured, with Newton hitting Ted Ginn Jr. for a 55-yard touchdown, the only points Carolina scored.
While Carroll said later that the Seahawks weren’t in a great defense to defend the play, Terrell also took the blame saying “I’ve just got to get a better break on the quarterback. That was my first play in, too. So that’s now how you want to start. But it’ll get better.’’
Ultimately, the 26-year-old Terrell said he has a simple goal for the rest of the year.
“I’m just going to try to be the best me that I can be,’’ he said.