If Earl Thomas and Pete Carroll cross paths and chat before the Seahawks host the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 20 at CenturyLink Field, it may well be the first time the two will have spoken since the night last September when Thomas broke his leg in a game at Arizona.
In a wide-ranging interview that aired on ESPN on Wednesday afternoon, the now-former Seahawks safety Thomas said he never talked to Carroll again after breaking his leg in a game at Arizona that turned out to be the last of his storied Seattle career.
“No, we haven’t spoken,” Thomas said when asked if he had talked to Carroll since that night.
If and when they do speak again, Thomas also said to not expect an apology for the middle finger he flashed Carroll’s way as he was carted off the sidelines following the injury.
Thomas said he had no regrets about the decision to flash the finger at Carroll other than hoping that no one else on the sidelines thought it might be aimed at them.
“I don’t regret my decision,” Thomas said. “If my teammates felt like it was for them, I regret that part. But I don’t regret doing that to Pete.”
Thomas elaborated that part of his anger was due to the fact that he said Carroll had told him in the days before that game that he was still in the team’s plans for a contract extension. Thomas held out all of the team’s offseason program and training camp before reporting the week of the first game so he would not lose $500,000 a week in game checks. Thomas had been hoping for a multiyear contract extension. But the team was willing to let Thomas play out his contract and enter free agency and take it from there.
Reasons for gesture: Thomas said he flashed the finger at Carroll because “I felt like he wasn’t being honest with me. … I just talked to coach Carroll and he was saying how he was trying to get me in the plans of getting a new contract. But I got hurt the next week.”
When Thomas got hurt while trying to defend a play on which Arizona score a touchdown, he said he knew immediately he had broken his leg.
Carroll came over and knelt by Thomas as trainers tended to him, which Thomas says only heightened his emotions in that moment.
“I knew what happened because I had been through it before (when he suffered a similarly injury in 2016),” Thomas said. “ … When Pete came, trying like acting like he was concerned, I was like ‘Move on, bro.’ “
Of the end of his nine-year tenure in Seattle, Thomas said, “Well, it’s a business, at the end of the day. I think my time just ran out. Pete and the front office didn’t value me like they used to.” He added that “I think I hurt myself too by my actions getting carted off the field.”
But by then, as Thomas noted, the relationship was already pretty fractured.
Money issues: Thomas began making noise about wanting a new contract before the 2017 season, when he still had two years remaining on a four-year, $40 million deal he had signed in April 2014. He famously approached Dallas coach Jason Garrett following a game in 2017 telling him to “come get me” when the Seahawks kick him to the curb.
The Seahawks then sent indications throughout the offseason that they had no real plans to extend Thomas before the season, noting he was under contract and they expected him to show up for mandatory activities. Thomas, though, stayed away until reporting before the first game, saying later he did so almost solely so he wouldn’t miss out on game checks.
Thomas, though, wanted to limit how much he practiced, deciding he wanted rest days during the week because “I’m investing in myself,” notably sitting out a Friday practice before the third game of the year against Dallas with Carroll telling reporters cryptically that “he couldn’t work today” instead of describing it as an agreed-upon rest day, as is often the custom with veterans.
Thomas said that also became a point of contention with Carroll.
“It was just, we didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things like work ethic,” he said. “Like sometimes I just didn’t want to practice, especially when they weren’t paying me, I wasn’t practicing like that and he wasn’t feeling it.”
Still wants to retire as a Seahawk: After signing with the Ravens last spring – there was never an offer from the Seahawks and Thomas repeated Wednesday he planned to sign a one-year deal with Kansas City before Baltimore approached him – Thomas said he still hopes to someday retire as a Seahawk and that “hopefully they will hang my jersey in the rafters.”
He said in the interview he felt like he was appreciated during most of his career, which included six Pro Bowl invites and three times being named to the All-NFL First Team, each accomplishments on par with other Seahawk greats.
And he said he also knows that he and Carroll will be forever linked – Thomas was the second pick the team made in what was Carroll’s first draft after taking over as head coach in 2010.
“We got to walk with each other the rest of our lives because we won a Super Bowl together,” Thomas said. “But they’ll love you one minute and then hate you the next. That was our relationship.”