On the day Earl Thomas took his biggest step yet in returning from shoulder surgery to be ready for the regular season opener, the Seattle Seahawks took a new, stern tone in the ongoing holdout of fellow safety Kam Chancellor.
Thomas passed a physical examination, then the team activated him from its physically-unable-to-perform list on Wednesday. That makes him eligible to practice for the first time since surgery on Feb. 24 to fix a separated shoulder and torn labrum. Five weeks still remain until the opener at St. Louis. That’s a game many have feared the All-Pro free safety would miss — even though he has never missed a game in his five NFL seasons. Journeyman Steven Terrell has been in his spot so far in camp.
Hours before the announcement on Thomas’ progress, coach Pete Carroll gave the first indication he and the team’s front office are now impatient and perhaps perturbed at Chancellor’s absence six days into training camp.
Asked following practice if the thumping strong safety’s holdout is now an issue of concern, the coach didn’t extend his verbal bouquet of how much the team needs and missing its leader on defense, as he and players had at the beginning of this week.
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“It’s an issue of concern. It’s an issue of concern, particularly for Kam,” Carroll said with no expression. “Here, we have to keep movin’, you know. And he knows. That’s what we are called to do, so we are going to do that.
“It’s a very difficult time for him, I think.”
When asked if he has any reason to believe Chancellor might report soon, Carroll said: “There’s been no exchange to tell that. I’d love to talk to him. I haven’t talked to him in a couple days.”
Chancellor wants more than the $4.45 million guaranteed in base pay he is due this season on a contract that runs through the 2017 season.
Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, a team can fine a player a maximum of $30,000 for each day of training camp he misses. So Chancellor’s tab could now be $180,000 — though last year the Seahawks waived those fines as part of getting Marshawn Lynch to end his holdout after eight days.
The Seahawks can also now begin, if they choose, to recover a portion of a Chancellor’s $5 million signing bonus he got in his $28 million contract extension two years ago. Seattle could take back 15 percent of Chancellor’s $1 million proration for 2015 beginning Wednesday, the sixth day of camp.
The Seahawks can recover 1 percent for each additional day Chancellor skips beyond Wednesday, with a maximum of 25 percent of the prorated amount during training camp. That’s $250,000. The team can take back an additional 25 percent with the first missed regular season game — if his holdout goes that long — and so on, up to a maximum fine of all his $1 million proration.
So the Seahawks could increase his fine from $180,000 to $300,000 starting Wednesday.
Maybe it’s more than a coincidence Carroll’s tone changed that afternoon.
Wednesday morning, general manager John Schneider was on Sirius/XM satellite radio. He began with the previously standard, verbal love note when talking about Chancellor’s situation:
“Shoot, we all love Kam. He is a phenomenal football player. Obviously a key for us and what are doing here defensively. I mean, the guy’s a monster over the middle and, you know, one of the strongest leaders that we have. And we all miss him. I think it’s just a bummer for everybody involved in the situation.”
But then Schneider referenced his oft-stated team policy of not renegotiating deals that have more than one year remaining.
Yet the GM did move future money into up-front guarantees totaling $1.5 million last year at this time to get Lynch into camp late.
That might be the crack in Schneider’s door Chancellor is trying to go through here.
“You know, we’ve had a plan in place here for several years,” Schneider added. “Kam is one of the first players that we drafted (in 2010) that we were able to reward with one year left on his (rookie) contract. And, you know, it’s personal because ... you have so much emotional and personal feelings for the player, and at the end of the day you have to stick to your plan and your principles and that’s what has to guide you rather than, ‘We just love this guy and we have to ...’ It’s about the team, and it’s the ultimate team sport. And in order for us to be a consistent championship-caliber team that we’ve been preaching over the last, you know, ever since we got here we have to continue to conduct business the way we always have.”
About how things are going between Chancellor and his agent and Schneider, the GM said: “There’s no animosity here. ... We’ve had good communication.”
Asked if he expected Chancellor to report to camp at this point, Schneider said: “I don’t know.”
Rookie and converted college DT Kristjan Sokoli was the first-string LG, and 2014 practice-squad G Drew Nowak was the center for the second consecutive practice. Offensive line coach Tom Cable said he wants to give Sokoli a break from trying to become a center, so he can focus on the nuances of blocking without snapping. Cable seems to be trying to see what he might have in Nowak. Alvin Bailey, down 25 pounds this summer to 350, and Lemuel Jeanpierre still seem on the inside tracks to replace departed free agent James Carpenter at left guard and traded Max Unger at center, respectively. … Bailey stopped the seemingly immovable new DT Ahtyba Rubin on an attempted bull rush in one drill. … LB Bruce Irvin sat out practice for what Carroll said was a day to rest his legs, nothing serious. … Third and goal. WR Ricardo Lockette in the slot. Russell Wilson’s pass hit him in the numbers for a touchdown, six months, four days and immeasurable degrees of importance removed from the final play of Super Bowl 49. … Dion Bailey’s first practice since coming off the non-football injury list from a hamstring injury included him breaking up a long, end zone pass away from WR Douglas McNeil, who has had an impressive week. … The team signed LB Dakorey Johnson, a rookie free agent and teammate of Seahawks rookie WR Tyler Lockett at Kansas State. It released rookie free agent LB Alex Singleton.