Earl Thomas is so mad at his preparation and play, at losing a game, he feels compelled to re-invent himself.
The Seattle Seahawks’ All-Pro safety nails ball carriers on the field, and eats nails off it. His words are usually weighted with gravity. But his insightful, unguarded statements on Thursday weighed more than some kickers.
He had his weekly press conference in the main auditorium of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center four days after he had to exit Seattle’s 30-21 loss at San Diego — and three days before the Super Bowl rematch between the Seahawks (1-1) and Denver Broncos (2-0) at CenturyLink Field. He gripped each side of a podium, at times clutching it like it was a running back he was about to discard to the turf.
In his mind the loss in San Diego, which he left for five defensive snaps in the third quarter because of cramps that required intravenous fluids in the locker room, has redefined Thomas.
Sunday will determine if it has revitalized him.
“I think I definitely got my championship spirit back after that loss. You know, my crave, my hunger and my desire to be unstoppable,” Thomas said.
He had absolutely zero expression in his face and tone in his words. As usual.
“I didn’t think I lost it, but after that game I was like, ‘Dang!’ ” he said. “Something just hit me. Ever since, it feels so good to be feeling like this.”
An example of the challenges inherent after winning a Super Bowl, perhaps?
“The thing is, I’m honest with myself. I look myself in the mirror and just try to evaluate what’s going on in my world,” Thomas said. “But, honestly, I couldn’t tell you what was going on before. But we hadn’t lost in a long time, and I’m always into my work and I think I’m on the right path.
“I guess,” he said with a shrug, “it’s 2.0.”
With that, he allowed himself a tiny smile and chuckle.
So there it is. Earl Thomas, 2.0. Reincarnated.
Even for this no-smiles, all-business, self-described “warrior,” this was especially intense. It was candid. It was unguarded. And, like teammate and fellow All-Pro Richard Sherman on Wednesday, it was so much better than the usual, game-week fare.
It’s not as if the original, 1.0 version of Thomas was a scrub. In addition to being first-team All-Pro last season for the second consecutive year he made his third consecutive Pro Bowl. Coach Pete Carroll remains almost in awe of how intensely prepared and dedicated Thomas is in his fifth season since the Seahawks drafted him with the 14th overall pick out of Texas in 2010.
Simply put, Thomas is the most indispensable member of what has been the league’s top-ranked defense.
“I know my impact is vital out there,” he said.
As may be evident, Thomas is on another level in intensity, alone apart from even his Super Bowl-champion teammates.
A year before Thomas was the Seahawks’ coveted first-round draft choice, Seattle signed defensive end Michael Bennett, who entered the league through the opposite way of Thomas — he was an undrafted rookie free agent.
Bennett was asked Thursday if he lost any “championship spirit” that he needed to regain in the wake of the defeat in San Diego.
“I’ve never lost the edge; I’ve got three daughters,” Bennett said. “Every day I try to improve their lifestyle. That’s my edge.
“I never take the game for granted. You know, they come from a different cloth. They are first-round picks, and it’s a little different for them. They have success a lot of the time. A lot of us older guys came from more adverse situations. We’re growing as we go. We try to teach them, you know, it’s going to be hard. Every game is not going to be, we go out there and blow the team out. Some games are going to come down to the last minute. Going out there, tackling, getting dirty.
“That’s just how it is.”
But to the ultra-driven Thomas, that’s not necessarily how it should be.
Thursday Thomas didn’t give the Chargers any credit for keeping Seattle’s defense on the field for 42:15 on the game’s 60 minutes, the decisive statistic in the Seahawks’ sixth loss in 31 games.
“We gave them everything,” he said.
“When you are on top like this, you have to protect what you have. It’s not a one-person game; it’s a team sport. We constantly have to capture every moment.
“We have a lot of younger players that are trying to understand their role. But we had a lot of great, teachable moments from that film. I got on to some guys. I took criticism myself. And we move on.”
On to Sunday’s ballyhooed rematch with Denver.
Thomas said Seattle’s defense must prepare for the Broncos to run basically everything the Seahawks have struggled to defend in the past few seasons. He said the Chargers were running plays last weekend that the Atlanta Falcons used to beat Seattle in the 2012 NFC divisional playoffs.
Thomas noted that when he went into the locker room for his IV in the third quarter and Jeron Johnson replaced him, the Chargers ran a fake bubble screen with a backside post pattern with Keenan Allen.
“I remember the Atlanta game they hit us twice (with that play),” Thomas said. “They had success on it — and (the Chargers) came back with it.”
Johnson moved to the backside post onto Allen last weekend. That left Antonio Gates open down the seam near the goal line. But on one of the only times Philip Rivers missed Gates last weekend, Rivers instead overthrew better-covered Eddie Royal on the right sideline in the end zone for an incomplete pass.
“So,” Thomas said thinking of Denver this weekend, “we’ve got to be ready for everything we’ve messed up since we’ve been a part of the ‘LOB.’ ”
That, of course, is the Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defensive secondary, which Thomas helped create and self-describe. Thomas, the 1.0 version, that is.
Asked how widespread the feeling on the defense or the team is that others need to “regain” that championship spirit, Thomas said: “I don’t know. I can’t speak for other people.
“But I believe when I’m in this mindset that I am going to go on a tear.”
RB Marshawn Lynch (back) and S Kam Chancellor (ankle) were full practice participants one day after sitting out. But DE Bruce Irvin missed practice with a new injury, ribs. … TE Zach Miller missed a second consecutive day with an ankle injury. But third-string TE Cooper Helfet is back to full participation after having a hamstring injury for two weeks. … LB Mike Morgan (hip) missed practice. … Backup RB Christine Michael (hamstring) was again limited. … The Seahawks announced Ross Filkins of Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor as one of two NFL high school coaches of the week for Washington, presented by Washington Army National Guard. Filkins’ Peninsula Seahawks won at South Kitsap 43-0 last week. The NFL high school coach of the week is selected by members of the Washington State Football Coaches Association. Winners receive a $500 cash donation for their football program from the Seahawks, a $225 gift card to a local sporting-goods store, an authentic Seahawks jacket and personalized football.