After winning the Super Bowl, making a third straight All-Pro team and signing a record contract extension, some might think they’ve earned the opportunity to ease up at least a little bit going into their fifth NFL season.
But that’s not the way Earl Thomas operates.
Instead, No. 29 continues to lead the vaunted Seahawks defense in what he describes as an almost transcendent state—one he hasn’t felt since he was at the collegiate level.
“The offseason has been tremendous,” Earl told the Bob and Groz show. “When I got out here, everything was just slow. It felt like walkthroughs even when I was in practice. I just feel like I’m a step ahead and it’s a great feeling. That’s why you grind, that’s why you put in those long hours. My mental game and my physical game is off the charts right now.”
While ET III is feeling stronger and sharper than ever, Seahawks offseason camp hasn’t been without its highs and lows. It isn’t easy for a NFL team to make national news during mini-camp, even if that team is the reigning Super Bowl Champion.
But the Hawks were the talk of the league after a skirmish broke out during a practice on Wednesday. The immeasurably intense Earl was right in the middle of that incident between the secondary and the receiving corps, but No. 29 sees it not as a negative, but as a testament to the team’s thirst for continued success.
“I look it as a killer instinct,” ET III said. “You can’t harness the beast. You can’t harness that attitude that drives you to be the best. You detach yourself and understand where the offense and defense is coming from. We saw worse last year.”
The Legion of Boom and the Seattle receivers began to prattle with one another when Bryan Walters made a diving catch and landed awkwardly on his shoulder while Earl was in coverage. Afterward, receiver Doug Baldwin and Earl began to argue about the play, prompting corner Richard Sherman to join the jawing.
Earl Thomas on #Seahawks practice today: "We're all so competitive if you press one wrong button, everybody will clear the benches."
— Tim Booth (@ByTimBooth) June 18, 2014
On the next play, a skirmish broke out between Sherman and receiver Phil Bates.
Following that exchange, coach Pete Carroll paused practice and addressed his group. ET later explained that despite the tension, all is well in Hawks camp.
“It’s all in the game, we’re teammates at the end of the day,” Earl said after practice. “It’s just the way you do stuff. Sometimes you get mad and you don’t say stuff you really mean. At the same time, we’re all men out here, we’re all Alpha males; it happens like that sometimes.”
He elaborated during his radio interview with Bob and Groz, telling of the aftermath between himself and Baldwin, and of the overall dynamic in the Seattle locker room.
“We understand what we got here. We love each other here. Doug even texted me his address, where to meet him at when we got into it,” Earl said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t want to go out there and play with any other guys.”
While it may sound crazy to outsiders, that intense type of atmosphere is exactly what ET hopes for with his team.
“I’m just being natural,” No. 29 said. “When guys see some of my success in practice and in the games, guys try to emulate that. I just set the bar really high and I hope everyone sees that. I just try to lead by example and hope everyone catches on. People see that and respect that.”
Earl declared himself as the “Doctor of Football” during his talk with Bob and Groz as he talked about his approach to the game and to the offseason.
“I’m the doctor of football. I really understand football, ET said. “I’m married to football. When you’re married to a person, you take your vows and you treat them right. It’s a privilege to be out here. I’m not going to follow the trends of the crowd. That’s not me. That’s not my style.”
It's hard to imagine a player loving football more than @Earl_Thomas: "I'm married to football…when you're married, you take your vows."
— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynESPN) June 19, 2014
Thus far, that leadership approach has worked for the Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He also talked about the mental state of the defending champion Seahawks, dismissing any thoughts at a letup following their title run.
“We don’t even think like that,” Earl said. “We have so many great pieces to this team. Nobody has to go out there and try to do something they’re not capable of, because I can count on my guys, and they can count on me.”
Now that camp is over, Earl will head home and continue his offseason development plan—but he’ll also spend some time off the field and out of the weight room to focus on family and community.
“I’m going to be a great father first,” ET III said of the next stage of the offseason. “Then I’m going to keep doing my routine, keep working hard. I’m going to get more involved in my community. I’m excited to get home and start my camp, talk to the mayor, see what’s going on and talk to kids at different schools. So this is my time to work on myself, my game, my family, and the community. I’m excited about it.”
All the while, Earl will take a small lesson from the blowup at minicamp: Going into the 2014-15 season, all eyes will be on Dr. Thomas and the defending champs.
“It’s been a great process,” he said. “There’s been a lot of ups and some disputes, but it’s been a great opportunity to evolve. We have a different mindset going into this season because we understand things differently now…You can feel the stares. You’re constantly watched.”
- Earl Thomas: “I’m married to football” (ESPN 710, June 19, 2014)
- Seahawks fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! (Field Gulls, June 18, 2014)
- Sherman part of scuffle at Seahawks practice (NFL.com, June 18, 2014)
- Seahawks have heated Day 2 at minicamp (The News Tribune, June 18, 2014)
- Hawks show postseason-like intensity at minicamp (The Olympian, June 18, 2014)
- Tempers flare in Seahawks minicamp (The Seattle Times, June 19, 2014)