By Bob Condotta
The Seattle Times
As expected, the Seahawks began training camp Thursday without free safety Earl Thomas, who is continuing a holdout that began in June, one he hopes ends in either a new contract from Seattle or a new place to call home.
Well, maybe everybody else expected it, given Thomas’ tweet last June that he will not take part in any activities with the Seahawks until his contract situation and future are resolved.
But in what seemed particularly terse comments, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he had expected that Thomas would show up since he remains under contract with Seattle for the 2018 season.
“We always expect him to be here,” Carroll said. “That’s kind of how it is. He should be here and he’s not, so it’s really about the guys that are here now, and we are going to keep moving, moving and grooving, and put it together. It’s unfortunate.”
Asked if expected Thomas to return in time for the regular season, Carroll said “I don’t know that, but we are expecting him back. He’s under contract.”
Thomas has one year left on a four-year, $40 million deal signed in 2014. He wants an extension that would likely top the $13 million a year mark and make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
Following practice, Thomas was placed on the reserve/did not report list which allows the Seahawks to add another player to their 90-man roster.
By missing Thursday’s workout Thomas can also be fined $40,000, the daily amount a team can fine a player for holding out. Thomas was also subject to fines of $84,435 for skipping minicamp in June.
Thomas’ no-show came on the same day the team put Kam Chancellor on the reserve Physically Unable to Perform list, which means he is ineligible to play this season due to a neck injury suffered last Nov. 9 at Arizona. Chancellor’s career is regarded as likely over, but Carroll confirmed only that Chancellor is done for this season.
“He’s been an awesome Seahawk and always is and will be and all that,” Carroll said. “Right now, that’s what this is about, and he will miss this season.”
Thomas’ holdout is the first for the Seahawks since Chancellor in 2015 — Chancellor ended up missing the first two games of the regular season before returning.
Without Thomas and Chancellor, the Seahawks opened practice with Bradley McDougald at strong safety and Tedric Thompson at free safety. However, Carroll said there will be a lot of mixing and matching in the secondary to find the right mix, mentioning Delano Hill and Maurice Alexander as two others who will get long looks.
“We’re just going to find the best guys to play for us and figure out how to fit them in,” Carroll said.
It might seem a daunting challenge to potentially have to replace one of the best safety duos in the history of the NFL (Seattle has also lost cornerback Richard Sherman), but Carroll seemed almost oddly energized at the thought of it.
“For years, we’ve been coaching safeties based on their personal makeup and attributes, and we’ve had so much experience that we have different things that we can do with different guys,” Carroll said. “This is a real fascinating challenge to me, to see how we tweak it and fix it so we can put these guys in the best position to get the most out of them. They’re not all the same.”
The Seahawks also waived Malik McDowell prior to practice with a non-football injury designation due to the injuries he sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident in July 2017. That brought to an end the career for the player Seattle took 35th overall in the 2017 draft but who never played a down for the team and is now done at the age of 22.
“It always was disappointing,” Carroll said. “The whole process was disappointing because he had a real upside and we took a big pick to take him and all of that and was just unfortunate it didn’t happen.”
The Seahawks also placed defensive end Dion Jordan, tight end Clayton Wilson and cornerback Dontae Johnson on the PUP list and tight end Ed Dickson on the non-football injury list. All could be brought back at any time.
Most ominous may be Jordan, who was limited in the spring after having a fourth surgery on his knee and is out now with what Carroll said is a new injury.
“He’s got an issue we are working on,” Carroll said of Jordan, who is projected to help replace Michael Bennett at left defensive end after making four sacks in five games last season. “It’s going to be a few weeks before we will be able to get him back out.” Carroll was vague on the nature of Jordan’s injury, saying it was not the same as the knee issue in the spring but was “something that came out of his workouts.”
Carroll said Dickson suffered a groin injury in recent workouts that he said is minor but needs to be monitored (that it didn’t happen in an official activity with the team is why it is considered a non-football injury) while Johnson is continuing to rehab a foot injury suffered in the spring.
The Seahawks also waived cornerback DeAndre Elliott with the designation that he failed his physical.
Carroll said Elliott simply did not make it back from an ankle injury suffered in the final preseason game last year against the Raiders.
Carroll also said defensive end Frank Clark was limited on Thursday after having had surgery on his hand last month. Clark is expected back in the next week or so.
A few other players were limited as they come off of recent injuries and/or surgeries including Alexander and offensive linemen George Fant and Rees Odhiambo. But all got some work on Thursday and Carroll said he was particularly pleased to see Alexander back. Carroll said Fant, who suffered an ACL injury last August, may need another 4-5 days before he returns.
To fill out the 90-man roster (taking the spots of McDowell and Elliott) and to fill out the tight end spot with Dickson and Wilson sidelined, the Seahawks signed free agent tight ends Kayaune Ross and Je’Ron Hamm. Later in the day, the Seahawks also claimed tight end Kyle Carter off of waivers from the Giants. Carter played at Penn State and played three games for the Vikings last season.
Also later in the day, cornerback Trovon Reed — who was on Seattle’s practice squad for two months in 2015 and throughout the offseason and training camp in 2016 and then again for a brief stint on the practice squad last season — tweeted he was now “officially a Seattle Seahawk.” Reed theoretically took the place on the roster of Thomas, who for now is out of sight, and the way Carroll seemed to portray it, out of mind.
“Got to keep moving,” Carroll said. “Got to keep going and going about your business you have. … we’ve got to coach the guys that are here and that’s really what the focus is.”
If Thomas does come back, Carroll hinted he’d be welcomed back as if nothing ever really happened.
He was asked what he took away from Chancellor’s holdout and responded with an answer that seemed to also serve as a wish of what could happen with Thomas.
“There was the point there that he (Chancellor) was a million miles away, you know?” Carroll said. “And then when he came back around, we had a wonderful meeting and he really just made some great statements about where he was going and what I could count on from him and how he had kind of endured it, and it was just really impressive. It was emotional, it was impressive, and he never took a step backwards. What I’m going to say to you is that sometimes, good stuff comes out of this stuff and it’s a hard process and it’s challenging.”