The Seahawks begin another quest for a championship on Saturday night in Seattle, but unfortunately, they’re doing so without the assistance of the heart and soul of their secondary, safety Earl Thomas III.

A broken tibia in his left leg, suffered in Week 13, has shelved the five-time All-Pro safety for the remainder of the season, which will keep him from gearing up as the Seahawks play in the postseason for a fourth straight time this January. But No. 20 has still been following the Legion of Boom closely.

ET III visited his team at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center this week, and after his time at the practice facility, he participated in a fan Q&A with The Seattle Times

It was then that the Texas Longhorns great revealed he’ll be on the sidelines this Saturday at 5:15 p.m. PT when the Seahawks host the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field. The uber-competitive defensive back also provided some insight as to what he has been going through in recent weeks.

“It’s been very difficult. It’s like a roller coaster. You have good days and bad days, but these last seven days have been all good days so I feel like I’m on the come up,” Earl said of his time off. “I don’t feel much pain now. I feel pretty good, man. I’m very mobile. I’m moving around by myself. That’s all I can ask for.”

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Fortunately, Earl’s tibia fracture did not require surgery, which could make for an easier recovery for the center fielder of one of the most feared secondaries in the history of the National Football League.

Injuries shortened ET’s seventh NFL season and snapped his string of 118 consecutive starts, including 106 in the regular season. That mark of 106 was second only to Detroit’s Glover Quin among NFL safeties. Quin, a kindred spirit of Earl’s, says he’ll miss competing against ET III this weekend.

“Hate to see him go down. I definitely respect his game and the way he plays the game. I hate seeing guys get hurt, so definitely feel bad for him and wish him a speedy recovery,” Quin told The Detroit Free Press.

The Lions know full well how important Earl is to Seattle’s operation. ET has played the Lions twice in his career, and both meetings have brought closely contested battles. No. 29 nabbed an interception in Seattle’s 28-24 loss to Detroit in 2012. In 2015, ET and the LOB held Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to just 203 yards and no touchdowns in a 13-10 Seattle win.

“Obviously, Earl brings a mentality to them,” Stafford said. “He’s an extremely aggressive player. Trusts his eyes probably more than any safety I’ve ever seen, and the young guy they’ve got filling in for him doesn’t as much. But I mean, they’ve got a great defense. They’ve got a bunch of players. The guy playing the free most of the time now is doing a heck of a job, too.”

That intense competitive mentality has made it tough for No. 29 to deal with his situation. When football was taken away from him, Earl sat back and thought deeply about what he would do going forward. It was while watching his team battle that he decided that he couldn’t leave the game.

In body, Earl will be watching from the sidelines Saturday night, but The Ghost of Earl Thomas III just might haunt the Detroit offense anyway. Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times recently shared a story where that exact phenomenon helped the Hawks beat the Rams in 2013:

“My favorite Earl Thomas play was a play Earl Thomas didn’t even make.

It was 2013, and the Seahawks were in another slugfest with the Rams. In the third quarter, Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens saw open field, scrambled and got drilled 6 yards later. It sounds unremarkable until you consider that Thomas covered 23 yards to reach Clemens and, once he got there, he hit Clemens so hard that Clemens wore a welt after the game.

“As Kellen came over to the sideline, he said, ‘Holy cow, man. Did you see how fast he closed?’ ” former Rams quarterback Brady Quinn recalled. “I mean, Kellen is a tough dude, but you could tell he was a little bit shook.”

That was the play Thomas made. The play he didn’t make was in the fourth quarter.

The Rams had the ball at the 3-yard line. Clemens rolled to his left and had he bolted for the end zone he had a chance to score.

But Clemens didn’t bolt for the end zone. He drifted laterally and eventually threw an incompletion, and the Seahawks won.

After the game, when talking about that play, Clemens brought up the Thomas hit in the third quarter and the speed with which Thomas had closed the distance between them. It was still in the back of his mind.

Thomas didn’t come within 10 yards of Clemens near the end zone, but it was as if he was a ghost in that moment, something Clemens projected that wasn’t actually there.”

To read the rest of Jenks’ ghost story, and for more on Earl as the Seahawks prep for the playoffs, follow the links below.

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