Earl Thomas, punt returner? And other Seahawks OTA notes

With Golden Tate leaving in free agency, the Seahawks need a new punt returner—that much we’ve known since Tate signed with the Detroit Lions. Who is currently first in line to replace Tate, however, is a bit of a surprise, with Pete Carroll saying following Tuesday’s practice that safety Earl Thomas is, as of now, the top option.

Granted it’s still May, and it’s entirely possible the Seahawks could find another option, perhaps somebody who plays a less significant role than the All-Pro safety, but for now, Thomas is very much in the mix, and if you need a reminder why, watch this interception return from the 2013 season.

“I’m very excited,” Thomas said. “I’ve been waiting on this opportunity. That’s what I do, I’m an athlete. I’ve been trying to tell Coach Carroll to put me back there for the longest (time). I always try to go back there during walk throughs just trying to sneak a punt return, just to show him who I am. I want to score touchdowns, so this is my perfect opportunity to score touchdowns. I’m an offensive guy at heart, that’s why I don’t try to go out of bounds when I catch an interception.

Thomas returned only a handful of punts at Texas, though the first one he returned as a sophomore went for 50 yards, with the punter saving a touchdown, Thomas said.

Thomas isn’t buying the idea that he’s too valuable to the team to add punt return duties.

“I don’t care what they think,” Thomas said when asked about fans who would worry about his health. “This is my future. I can help this team, I know I can.

“I want to show everybody who I am. I want to be able to impact the game as much as possible. This is a great opportunity for me, I just need to capitalize on it.”

Also in the mix for punt returns, Carroll said, are Percy Harvin, Richard Sherman and Bryan Walters.

Harvin acknowledged that punt returns are “completely different” than kickoff returns, but said he’s excited about giving it a go.

“I’m working on it now,” Harvin said. “Coach came to me a couple weeks ago… I knew with the departure of Golden Tate, that would be one of the things we’d be looking to fill. I’m just practicing it now, hopefully if I can get it on lock, I’ll be back there.”

Now, onto some other notes from today’s workout…

—While we’re on the topic of Harvin, it’s worth mentioning that he practiced without any limitations, and said the hip injury that cost him most of last year is completely behind him, noting, “This is probably the best I’ve felt since before college.”

—Among those who didn’t practice were DE Cliff Avril, who’s on his honeymoon, RB Marshawn Lynch, who, well, misses pretty much every voluntary OTA, LB Malcolm Smith, who is in a walking boot and recovering from an ankle procedure to clean up what Pete Carroll called “loose bodies,” DT Jesse Williams, who had an accident, according to Carroll and has a laceration on his leg that shouldn’t keep him out long. S Kam Chancellor is still recovering from hip surgery, and is “way ahead of schedule” according to Carroll, and should be back for training camp. WR Sidney Rice, who is recovering from ACL surgery, did some running at the start of practice, but did not participate in the team portion. He too is on track to be full speed by training camp. QB Tarvaris Jackson was away with a family matter, while QB Keith Price was present, but didn’t do much because of a groin injury. CB Tharold Simon, who is recovering from foot injuries, is “really close” to practicing Carroll said, and has been cleared to run (and was doing so after practice).

—LB Horace Miller, who attended rookie minicamp as a tryout player, apparently has been added to the 90-man roster, filling the spot that came open when OT Garrett Scott was waived, because the outside linebacker from UTEP was on the field Tuesday.

—As expected, Alvin Bailey was the first-team left tackle with Russell Okung sidelined because of foot surgery. Michael Bowie got the first crack at right tackle with the first team, though Justin Britt saw time there as well.

—It’s really early still, but as you might expect, Michael Bennett was lining up as the starting left defensive end in the base defense. Benson Mayowa was the Leo end (Chris Clemons’ old spot), though it’s worth remembering Avril wasn’t present. And while there has been speculation that Bruce Irvin could go back to end, he was still the strongside linebacker in the base defense, then a pass-rusher in the nickel package.

—WR Doug Baldwin had a good day, including a couple of long catches down the sideline. He spent a lot of time working as an outside receiver, something he’ll have a chance to do more of with Tate gone and Rice still recovering from his injury.

—Bobby Wagner had one of the more impressive defensive plays, going up high to snag a Russell Wilson pass over the middle. The following play saw Greg Scruggs come down with an interception of a Terrelle Pryor pass that had been tipped by Jordan Hill. Speaking of Scruggs, he played mostly as an interior pass rusher in the nickel package. Again, it’s early, but that’s a role up for grabs with Clinton McDonald leaving in free agency.

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