The six-time Pro Bowler kept his promise of staying away from the team as it began its mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
Just as he’d promised, Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas was nowhere to be seen when the team began its mandatory minicamp on Tuesday — he was the only non-injured player who was absent.
And while coach Pete Carroll tried to put his typically sunny spin on the issue, he also acknowledged that he’s not sure if Thomas will be with the team when the 2018 season begins.
“We’ll see,’’ he said when asked if he expected Thomas to be on the roster when the season begins. “We’ll see what happens.’’
Thomas had revealed on Twitter Sunday morning that he will not attend any team activities until he has a new contract — his current deal has just one year remaining, due to pay him $8.5 million in 2018. He is thought to want a long-term extension that could top the $13 million average of the highest-paid safety in the NFL, Kansas City’s Eric Berry.
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Two other players who had jointed Thomas in skipping the team’s voluntary OTAs — defensive end Frank Clark and cornerback Byron Maxwell — were back on the field Tuesday though Clark was limited with a hamstring issue.
That left Thomas’ uncertain future as the biggest cloud hanging over the team, one that figures to loom throughout the summer as there doesn’t appear to be any quick resolution in sight.
Intriguingly, Carroll revealed that the team had had an idea that Thomas would hold out, further indicating that each side may have lines drawn in the sand that will not be easily crossed.
“We’d kind of heard that he was making that choice,’’ Carroll said of his reaction to Thomas’ statement of his holdout. “Really wish he was here. That would be nice. But we are focusing on the guys that are here and we’ll see how that goes.’’
Carroll said he had last spoken to Thomas “a couple of weeks ago.’’
Carroll said he considers Thomas — who can be fined up to $84,435 if he misses all three days of minicamp — as still part of the program, noting “he’s under contract.’’
And when asked if he sees a clear path to a potential resolution he said “sure, yeah, there is. Sure. Of course.’’
But some of what was seen on the field indicated the team preparing for Thomas not to be around anytime soon.
When the first-team defense first took the field Tuesday, the safety tandem featured Bradley McDougald at strong safety and second-year player Tedric Thompson at free safety. McDougald had typically played free safety during OTAs that were open to the media with Delano Hill at strong safety.
But as Carroll said afterward, the team is going to start moving players around to see how different combinations look, something that takes on more urgency now with the reality that Thomas could be gone for the long haul (with Kam Chancellor also still unlikely to be back with Carroll saying there is nothing new on his status).
The Seahawks also used second-year player Mike Tyson more at safety on Tuesday. Drafted as a safety in 2017, Tyson has been listed by the team as a cornerback with the team hoping to move him there.
But Carroll said “we did move him there (safety) to take a look at him there.’’
The only certainty is that McDougald will start somewhere. He started two games at free safety last season and then seven more at strong safety due to injuries to Thomas and Chancellor and Carroll said again the team feels comfortable with him at either spot.
“We are very comfortable moving him around and matching him up with people, as we did last year at times,’’ Carroll said. “He can do everything you need a guy to do.’’
So that means for now figuring out what the team has in its young players, and eventually free agent signee Maurice Alexander, who started 23 games for the Rams in the 2015-17 seasons before being waived last season after suffering a shoulder injury. Alexander, listed as a strong safety, is not taking part in minicamp to further rehab his shoulder after having had surgery.
Hill, listed as a strong safety, was a third-round pick in 2017 and Thompson, listed as a free safety, a fourth-rounder, though each played sparingly as rookies, seeing most of their time on special teams.
But as Carroll made clear, their time may be now.
“When we picked them a couple of years ago we thought someday they are going to be good players out here,’’ Carroll said. “So they are making their pitch.’’
Thomas becomes the third holdout since 2012 – Chancellor held out in 2015 and missed the first two games before returning without a new contract while running back Marshawn Lynch missed seven days of training camp in 2014 before returning when the team converted $1.5 million in bonuses and future salary to an immediate guarantee.
But Carroll said there are no parallels to be drawn to the team’s history saying every case is different.
“Everything counts,’’ Carroll said of what the team will consider in assessing what to do with Thomas. “We take everything into account. It’s individual cases. Each player is unique in its own way. Earl couldn’t be a more unique player than he is.’’
Certainly, one of the best in team history. His holdout Tuesday seems to make it more possible, though, that his Seahawks career could also be history.
It left Russell Wilson facing a defense that featured just three players who were with the team when it won the Super Bowl five years ago — Maxwell (who left after the 2014 season and returned midway last year) and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
“Hopefully we can get him (Thomas) out here,’’ said Wilson, the only player the team made available to the media. “He makes our team a better football team. He’s a great player. We have great guys that can step up and the good thing about the young guys, like Tedric Thompson, those guys get to step in and learn a little bit more. Bradley is a great player, we got other guys that can step in, learn, and get those extra reps and play at a great level. But you’re talking about a Hall of Fame player. So you’d love for him to be out here.”