INDIANAPOLIS Pete Carroll was as clear and positive as the Seahawks have been yet about Earl Thomas being able to return from a broken leg in time for the start of the 2017 season.
The coach also was as clear -- but absolutely opposite of positive -- on kicker Steven Hauschka’s status in Seattle.
Carroll said on day two of the NFL’s annual scouting combine here “all indications” are Thomas will recover from a broken tibia he got Dec. 4 in the win over Carolina to be Seattle’s starting free safety again for next season’s opener in September. Before, Carroll had not given an estimate in the recovery of the three-time All-Pro.
Thomas had mused on social media immediately after his injury about possibly retiring, but the Seahawks now see that as an emotional reaction from an emotional player who just sustained his first major injury of his football life.
"I'm coming back to prove I'm the best,” Thomas told ESPN’s Ed Werder on Thursday. “I'm coming back to help my team win a championship."
"Yeah, it was a big shock, you know. It was a big shock to him. He’d never been injured before, like that,” Carroll said Thursday. “He’s feeling very competitive about it and he’s going for it. His mentality is strong. And he’s looking forward to getting right."
The coach had the same upbeat forecast for Tyler Lockett. The zooming wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner broke his tibia and fibula against Arizona on Christmas Eve.
“Both those guys have a really good chance to be there as we kick off the season,” Carroll said Thursday morning.
The coach echoed general manager John Schneider from the day before in saying it may be deeper into the 2017 season before starting cornerback DeShawn Shead returns to playing. Shead tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Jan. 14 in Seattle’s playoff loss at Atlanta, and had surgery late that month.
Carroll called the former decathlete at Portland State “an extraordinary healer and competitor...but it wouldn’t be unlikely that he might go into the season before he is ready to go.”
Shead’s injury has put a new emphasis for the Seahawks on finding a new cornerback here at the combine for April’s draft, and perhaps in free agency next week.
Off the podium following his 20 or so minutes of speaking to the media, I asked Carroll what the signing of free-agent kicker Blair Walsh to a one-year, $800,000 contract means for Steven Hauschka. Hauschka, 31, has been the Seahawks’ kicker since 2011 but his contract has expired and he is due to become an unrestricted free agent next Thursday when the market opens.
“Steven's a free agent,” Carroll said. “He can go anywhere he wants to go.”
Walsh, a former All-Pro with Minnesota, is four years young and will cost Seattle nearly $2 million less than Hauschka cost the team in 2016.
Carroll called Walsh a “tremendous talent.” That seems to cement what indications were the day Walsh signed last month, that Hauschka’s time as the Seahawks’ kicker is over.
SEAHAWKS TRYING TO KEEP LUKE WILLSON
Carroll said off the podium the team intends to re-sign No. 2 tight end Luke Willson. The team’s fourth-round draft choice in 2013, who wasn’t invited to the combine that year out of Rice, is due to become an unrestricted free agent March 9. It’s his first time on the open market, and he’s intending to shop to see what kind of raise he can get from the $1.67 million in base salary he earned while having 15 catches and missing five games due to a knee injury and surgery in 2016.
“Sure,” Carroll said when asked if the Seahawks want Willson back to play next to and behind Jimmy Graham. “We love Luke.”
Carroll confirmed what became known last month, that defensive assistant Rocky Seto is leaving coaching to join the ministry.
Carroll said co-linebackers coach Lofa Tatupu, a former Seahawks linebacker in the early 2000s, is also leaving football to tend to family matters. John Glenn gets a promotion from being Seattle’s quality-control coach on defense since 2014 to be the next linebackers coach with returning coach Michael Barrow.
Carroll confirmed Chad Morton is the new running backs coach, repacing original Seahawk player Sherman Smith.
And the head man confirmed Clint Hurtt is arriving from the Chicago Bears to be Seattle’s new assistant defensive line coach.