All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas has been lobbying Pete Carroll to get his hands on the ball. It must have worked as the Seahawks’ coach says the line to replace Golden Tate as the punt returner will form behind Thomas.
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for May 27, when the Seahawks held the first of their 10 OTA sessions:
WORDS OF THE DAY: PUNT RETURNER
Who replaces the departed Golden Tate as the Seahawks’ punt returner?
“If we had to start today, Earl would be the first guy back there,” coach Pete Carroll said after the first of the Seahawks’ three OTA sessions this week.
That would be Earl Thomas, the team’s two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl free safety.
“He’s really excited about that,” Carroll said.
Excited might not be the proper term, as Thomas says he’s been lobbying for the role for a while. There is an opening, of course, because Tate signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency after averaging 11.5 yards on 51 punt returns last season, which ranked fifth in the NFC and ninth in the NFL last season.
“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting on this opportunity,” Thomas said. “This is what I do. I’m an athlete. I’ve been trying to tell coach Carroll to put me back there for the longest. I always try to go back there during walkthroughs. Just try to sneak a punt return, just to show them who I am.
“I want to score a touchdown. So this is my perfect opportunity.”
And it’s not Thomas’ maiden voyage as a punt returner. He did it during his final season at the University of Texas, when he averaged 18.0 yards on three punt returns.
“My first time ever returning I almost scored,” he said. “I just got tripped up by the punter.”
Now, Thomas just views it as one more element to his already impressive game and another way to help the team.
“I want to show everybody who I am,” he said. “I want to be able to impact the game as much as possible. This is a great opportunity for me. I just need to capitalize on it.”
Carroll also wants to get looks at wide receivers Bryan Walters and Percy Harvin, as well as All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman in the role.
“I’m anxious to see how Bryan Walters fits into that,” Carroll said. “He’s got experience in his background. Percy is out there vying for it. Sherm will tell you he’s the best one, and he catches the ball really well.
“He and Earl would take it right now.”