Seahawks activate Thomas in time for opener in Denver

Seattle also places starting cornerback Dontae Johnson on injured reserve and activates Akeem King.

Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas was activated by the team on Saturday in time to play in Sunday’s opener against the Broncos. Thomas held out for all of the preseason in a contract dispute. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas was activated by the team on Saturday in time to play in Sunday’s opener against the Broncos. Thomas held out for all of the preseason in a contract dispute. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Bob Condotta / The Seattle Times

The Seattle Seahawks activated free safety Earl Thomas to their 53-man active roster Saturday, clearing the way for him to play and start Sunday against the Broncos in Denver.

Thomas returned to the team on Wednesday following a lengthy holdout. The Seahawks had gotten a special exemption for Thomas to practice with the team and not count against the 53-man roster this week.

To make room for Thomas on the roster the team waived rookie cornerback Simeon Thomas, who had been claimed off waivers from the Browns earlier this week. The Seahawks will likely try to re-sign Simeon Thomas to the practice squad.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday Thomas was ready to return to the field after practicing with the Seahawks on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But the team simply didn’t need to make a move with him until Saturday for him to be eligible for Sunday’s game.

“He had a good week,” Carroll said. “He was solid all week long. He was fired up and studying and working hard at it and he had a good week.”

While Carroll hedged on if Thomas will play, with him being active the expectation is he will start at free safety with Bradley McDougald at strong safety. Tedric Thompson, a second-year player from Colorado, worked primarily as the starting free safety in camp but suffered rib and stinger injuries in the third preseason game against the Vikings. Thompson is healthy now but missed some practice time during the final week of the preseason.

Thomas is a six-time Pro Bowler and his return to the team this week assured he will not lose out on $500,000 a week game checks.

Seattle has a practice squad spot available after the Seahawks on Saturday also signed cornerback Akeem King to the 53-man roster to take the place of Dontae Johnson, who was placed on injured reserve.

Johnson had been expected to start Sunday against Denver until suffering a strained groin in practice this week. He was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game on Seattle’s final injury report Friday. But it apparently is a more serious injury and Johnson now will be out at least eight games. Teams can recall two players a year from IR after eight games but no longer have to designate those players ahead of time.

Without Johnson the Seahawks are likely to start rookie Tre Flowers at right cornerback. Flowers, a fifth-round pick from Oklahoma State, was a safety primarily in college but has been making the transition to corner.

The addition of King, though, gives Seattle another option. King played throughout the preseason and some had thought he had a chance to make the 53-man roster. King has some experience having played in five games with the Falcons in 2015.

The Seahawks have also listed Neiko Thorpe as a backup at that spot. But Thorpe battled a wrist injury and did not play in the preseason, though he said this week he is healthy and good to go now.

Seattle’s other corners are Justin Coleman, the starting nickel, and Shaquill Griffin, who starts on the left side.

The Seahawks went into camp expecting that Johnson would battle with Byron Maxwell for the starting right cornerback spot with Griffin having been moved to the left side.

Johnson started 16 games for the 49ers last season at right corner. But he suffered a foot injury that required surgery in the offseason and missed much of the offseason program and was limited early in training camp before starting the final two games there.

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