Bryan Walters to replace Earl Thomas as Seahawks punt returner

Seahawks fans got the news many of them have been hoping for ever since Pete Carroll decided to let All-Pro safety Earl Thomas try his hand at punt returns. Carroll announced Wednesday that while Thomas is still available to return punts for his team, receiver Bryan Walters will be the primary punt returner going forward.

But while many have expressed concern about Thomas being exposed to injury risk while returning punts, Carroll said that had nothing to do with the decision, but rather that he was worried Thomas’ focus on his primary job was being affected by his punt return duties.

“I think the focus from Earl on the punt thing is so much because he wants to do so well, that I’d like to take that off of him,” Carroll said. “So he’s going to still be available for us on punt returns and we’ll use him when we need him, but we’ll use Bryan Walters back there and mix our guys as we go.”

“I just noticed in the game that he wants to do so well that his focus is challenged, and I’d rather have his focus on playing safety. So after the long experiment and the time we spend doing this, he’s not doing it.”

Asked how Thomas took the news, Carroll said the two were on the same page: “He understands. He sees it. He has such tremendous pride in his position and what he brings to the defense, and what it takes to get that focus, he really sensed it also. So we really just talked it through, and it made sense to him too. He actually had the same thought the night before I talked to him. This is an opportunity for him to really focus even more where we need him the most. The thing I love about Earl is that he wants to do it so badly… Bryan Walters has a tremendous background catching punts, he’s got great hands and great decision making, so as far as I’m concerned.

Other notes

Carroll said that newly-signed cornerback Josh Thomas will work as an outside corner, and that Marcus Burley will be the nickel corner in place of the injured Jeremy Lane.

“We’re hoping that Marcus will take over that spot,” Carroll said. “It’s a spot he’s familiar with and he did a nice job coming into the game in short time. Josh is really an outside guy for us… We’re looking for Marcus to do a real nice job taking over.”

With Lane on short-term IR and Tharold Simon recovering from knee surgery, Carroll acknowledged that his team’s cornerback depth is being tested.

“The depth situation, we’re challenged by it,” he said. “We really were counting on Tharold Simon to be there and be battling for us. Jeremy’s injury, we take a blow there. He’s a fine football player for us. The cool thing is both these guys have a chance to get back and they’ll come back to us later in the year, then our depth will feel a lot different, but in the meantime, we’ll have to work real hard, Kris (Richard) and Rocky (Seto) will do a good job catching these guys up. We feel like we can help these guys and they can fit into our system; that’s why they’re here. It’s going to be OK, but in the meantime, we’re going to have to put it together in a hurry.”

With Lane on the injured reserve/designated to return list, he can’t return to practice for at least six week and to game action for eight, but Carroll said Lane shouldn’t be longer than that.

“What we’re told is he should be able to get back,” he said. “He should be able to use the window period then get back to practicing and be ready to go at eight, but we’ve got to wait and see how it goes.”

Carroll said running back Christine Michael, who missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, ran Tuesday, will take today off, then will work out again tomorrow. Carroll referred to Michael and day-to-day, saying he has a chance to play this week, and that if he doesn’t, “For sure he should have a great chance for the following week.”

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