Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said it was "pretty cool'' that Marshawn Lynch wore Kam Chancellor's jersey at practice on Thursday.
That wasn’t Kam Chancellor wearing a No. 31 jersey on the Seahawks’ practice field Thursday but rather running back Marshawn Lynch, making an apparent statement of support for his teammate, whose holdout has now reached 42 days.
But defensive coordinator Kris Richard — who in his role coaching the secondary the previous five years is as close to Chancellor as any coach on the staff — thinks a return of the real No. 31 may not be all that far away.
“We stay in contact,” Richard said after Thursday’s practice. “And really, we are all encouraged by it. We want him here, he wants to be here. Right now,both sides are working. Everybody cares, everybody wants the right thing. Everybody wants him here. He wants to be here, we want him here and right now there will now be resolution. … ultimately we are encouraged by it. He’s involved, he’s with us, he’s still here. He’s taken his stand and we are just waiting to get him back.”
Asked if he would be surprised if Chancellor missed most of the season, Richard said he would be.
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“Yeah I would be surprised,” Richard said. “And it’s because we know how much this game, this team, means to him. And right now he has taken a stand where he’s taken it and there is ultimate support on both sides. The closeness, the real relationships, who we are, who he is, that will not change.”
Richard cited the team embracing Lynch wearing Chancellor’s jersey in practice as a sign of the total support that Chancellor still has in the organization.
Richard acknowledged that Lynch’s statement “maybe” wouldn’t be accepted by other teams.
“But that’s who we are here,” said Richard, who is in his first year as the team’s defensive coordinator. “You have the right and the ability to express yourself and who you are and it’s not shied upon, it’s not frowned upon.”
Richard joked that he initially did a double take when he saw No. 31 on the field before realizing it wasn’t Chancellor, joking this No.31 was “just not as tall.What he is is wide and thick and powerful. And honestly, it’s just a testament to the closeness of our locker room and how much each and every single guy mean to one another. So that was pretty cool.”
What the Seahawks will have on the field again Sunday, though is the No. 29 of free safety Earl Thomas, who has not seen live action since having surgery in February to repair a torn labrum suffered in the Super Bowl.
Thomas has practiced fully for a few weeks now with the team eyeing his return for the regular season. And before practice began on Thursday, Thomas met the media and declared himself good to go, saying he was motivated in part by not wanting to miss his first NFL game — he has played, and started, in all 80 (as well as eight playoff games) since being drafted by Seattle in 2010.
“I’ve got to keep the streak alive,’’ he said.
Sunday’s game, though, will mark just the fourth time he has started a game without Chancellor being alongside of him at strong safety since 2010 (Chancellor missed one game due to injury in 2011 and two in 2014).
Thomas said it will be “very different’’ playing without Chancellor. He also made an interesting revelation about how the two have worked since coming to Seattle.
“I depended on Kam to say “you need to get on this side or that side,’’’ Thomas said, adding that being without Chancellor since camp began has “made me a little bit sharper. … it put me in my playbook a little bit more. I rely on instinct and Kam was more the mental guy.’’
Sunday, it will be Thomas guiding Dion Bailey,who will be seeing the first regular season NFL action of his career in stepping into the starting lineup for Chancellor at strong safety.
“The big thing is going to be his communication with Earl,’’ said Kris Richard, who is in his first year as the team’s defensive coordinator after working with the secondary for the previous five seasons. “. … Just to make sure that all of our one-word meanings and things of that nature, that we are all on the same page.’’
What Thomas hopes will be the same is the nature in which he plays.
The labrum tear was the first significant injury Thomas has suffered. He said he will play with a harness that could inhibit just a bit his ability to “high-point’’ the ball — meaning reach for it at its highest point. But he said after a few days of fighting the trainers to not wear the harness “I came back to my senses.’’
Asked if he had any “trepidation’’ about hitting someone for the first time, Thomas joked that he doesn’t know what the word means.
“I’ve been hitting bags and doing a lot of rehab, and putting a lot of pressure on my shoulder, so I’m very confident in it,’’ Thomas said.