Earl Thomas is just different.
Look below at his eyes.
They look like they are about to bore into your soul. And you aren't even in pads.
Heck, this was only Wednesday, four days still before he and his Seahawks play the NFC championship game against Green Bay.
Imagine what he looks like to opponents on game days. OK, you'd rather not.
Thomas is unique among the thousands of athletes, pro and college, I've interviewed in my 17-year career. Many say they are intense. Many play like they are intense. But Seattle's All-Pro free safety sounds, looks, acts and just plain is intense, in everything he does. Either that, or he's been acting when I've seen or talked to him just about every day since August.
When I covered the Raiders a little more than a decade ago, they had a defensive tackle named Ted Washington. You might remember him. A former New England Patriot, 6 feet 5, listed at 365 pounds but closer to four bills. He sat at a corner locker in the Raiders' headquarters in Alameda. He just glared at reporters like a guard dog. The times I approached him, and they weren't many, he flashed looks that basically said: "You have 10 seconds -- then get the hell out."
That was a different kind of intense. More like intimidating, for the sport of it. By all accounts Washington was a cooperative, if not likable, teammate in Oakland. He even did an endearing United Way volunteering commercial for the NFL once, when he played for the Chicago Bears.
Thomas is a different intense. A cerebral kind. Physically, he isn't tremendously imposing: 5-10, 202 pounds.
But he eats, drinks, sleeps football -- specifically excelling in it. Watch on the video below during a couple of his pauses to answer questions. They are uncomfortable pauses, and not just because no one is saying anything. Yesterday I really did find myself sitting there wondering, truly contemplating, whether Thomas is about to leap off the auditorium stage and pile drive the person who just asked him something.
He nailed it yesterday when at one point during his pre-title-game press conference he said: "I'm unique in my own way. I'm not like everybody else."
It's an edge that makes him a two-time All-Pro, one of the best safeties of the last decade. The leader of the best defense in the NFL, one that is a win away from bolstering its growing a legacy as of the best units of the last 40 years.
And he's only in his fifth season.
--The Seahawks announced Katharine McPhee will sing the National Anthem before Sunday's game and Alice in Chains will be rockin' it at halftime inside CenturyLink Field.
--The team practices beginning at noon, with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson talking afterward.
--Here's all that Thomas said yesterday:
FS EARL THOMAS
January 15, 2015
- Bobby Wagner was just saying that regardless of what teams come in and expect to do to you guys that you're going to be ready for it. Do you agree with that?
- A lot of you guys have been together three, four years. How much has the communication in the defense room kind of come together quickly, whether it's a signal or just a word?
- You talked a lot over the years, over the season, about the love, how much you love each other. You don't hear that much from football players. How does that fit in?
- What does Kam Chancellor's physicality do for this defense? People talk about him setting the tone. When he's hitting guys like he was last week, what does that do?
- Did you know Kam at all before you guys came in together that year?
I think it's crazy how when you come together and you never dream of right now. We just talk about how good we want to be, but when you actually put the action in and you actually see it come to life, that's special.
- Where was that, that you guys were watching "Family Guy"?
- Did you ask him to change the channel?
- Do you look at the specimen that he is, and you go, this guy plays DB?
- Your guys' rookie year you guys were playing alongside Lawyer Milloy and Kam was kind of learning. What did having that veteran presence do for you?
- How does the Packers' offense look different on tape from the guys you faced in week one?
- What do you bring to the defense?
- You're in the middle of it now, Earl, but have you thought about, or do you guys sense how close you are to something historical that teams just don't do back‑to‑back years?
- You probably watched a ton of film on them. What's one thing you really respect about Aaron Rodgers when you think about him as a player?
- How do you think he'll do with the calf injury?
- Rodgers, he scrambled a little bit, but not like he usually ‑‑
- Do you tell your guys up front ‑‑
- What was Bobby's impact when he came back from the injury? How good is he now compared to maybe his first two years, or is he still the same player, just getting recognized for it?
- Help me make sense of something because Russell Wilson said yesterday ‑‑
- No, I'm from New Jersey.
- Russell Wilson said yesterday this team is stronger than last year. I look back at that team last year, and it was a pretty strong team, but he says, coming out of what you did early in the season, having to find a way makes you stronger. Can you make sense of that? I'm sure you probably agree with that because a lot of guys do.
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