A programming note: We'll wrap links and post-practice notes into one big post today. For now, here's what Earl Thomas had to say Saturday:(On punt returning) I still want to do it; I’m having a good time out there and getting more confidence in it. The key that I need to take as far as owning that role is being fearless – you know – just attack the ball.
(On how it feels to be out there playing football again) You never can train to come out here, because you know, you got the helmet on and it’s hard to breathe sometimes. But it just feels good to get the soreness off for the second day, yesterday it felt like I was running on sand, but today I felt really, really well. I got some great breaks, and I’m just excited to see the film and keep going, improve for tomorrow.
(On the NFL cracking down on illegal contact in the secondary) At the end of the day, defense is dictating the pace of what’s going on, we proved that – you know. We are who we are; of course people understand that we’re very aggressive. The corners like to do their thing and Kam [Chancellor] and me, we do the same thing. So we can’t worry about that, we’ve got to stay true to who we are.
(On the different feeling, if any, that comes with being a defending Super Bowl champion) Nothing feels different. The only thing that feels different is we have something to protect now – we understand that. We love that, we’ve been waiting for this opportunity to catch everybody’s eye, and we want to keep that attention on us.
(On how this defense can live up to the expectations set by the historic measures it grew to last season) We don’t even think that way, though. I think y’all probably think about it more than we think about it, to tell you the truth. All we focus on is getting better. We don’t even put our energy in that negative period right there. We just stay us, we stay happy, we stay good vibes, we stay laughing. We stay talking about ideas as a secondary, that’s why we separate ourselves so far from everybody in the league.
(On how to keep playing at a high level) You do what you’ve been doing. As you go along you get new stuff that you add to your schedule to help get you mentally and physically prepared to play football. But, you know, we are who we are. Nobody has our personnel, that’s why they can’t be us. It don’t matter if you try to have a single safety defense and try to stack the box, if you ain’t got the right personnel you can’t do it.
(On the ‘illegal contact’ rules being enforced because of the Seahawks secondary play) You know we have our strict, concrete, how we play. You know, we can’t change who we are. So if they call it, they call it. But we’re not playing timid, we’re gonna stay on the attack. I think if you wait to get hit you’re gonna get knocked out.
(On how they can get better after a season as good as last year’s) You know, I asked Coach Carroll to watch my blind spots – stuff that I can’t see yet. But the thing that stands out to me is how slow the game is, it’s a different understanding. I think the more and more you know football, the better you’re able to play fast. You see what’s coming before it happens and you can be a better communicator, and that’s my job. I’m the free safety of the defense. I’m the protection, I’m the last resort. If something breaks I’ve got to make that play, if you see an indicator you’ve got to scream. That breeds confidence throughout the whole defense when you communicate that way.
(On if his mental game will start to take over when he’s not as fast in five years as he is now) You’ll be amazed because I’m never gonna stop. I don’t even fathom my full potential, it’s crazy. You know – every year I get better.
(On the progression of Byron Maxwell and how excited he is to watch him this year) I’m very excited. He’s become one of the best players on our defense and he wasn’t even starting. That’s a credit to our DB room. Coach [Kris] Richard, Coach Marquand [Manuel], they do an awesome job with us in there. We pray together, we talk, we talk about family. That room is second to none, we’re so close, and that’s why we play for each other. We fight for each other.
(On what he’s seen from Russell Wilson this year compared to a year ago) He’s a different guy. He’s more controlled. He’s been giving me a hard time, kind of looking me off. Sometimes I think he’s holding it long because no pass rush is coming, but he’s on the right track. He’s a great leader. He watches film just like I watch film. We try to beat each other. We try to see who can stay at the VMAC longer, me or him. He’s a great leader, I’m excited to see what he’s going to bring to the season.
(On what he’s seen from DeShawn Shead in the last couple of years) That’s why he’s been around for so long. He can play corner, he can play any spot in the defensive backfield. That’s raw, that’s raw talent. And he has a great mind for the game.
(How hard is it to do that? To switch between strong safety, free safety and corner like he’s been doing?) You rarely see any DB switch from that spot to that spot. It’s rare, and we have it in that guy.
(On getting slimed at the Kids Choice Awards) It was a great experience. I’ve always wondered what the slime tasted like. When I went in there it just tasted like water, so I was disappointed.
(What did you want it to taste like?) I don’t know, something better than water.
(How good can Tharold Simon be?) I think he can be just as good as Sherm if he really gets his technique down. That’s all it is when you’re playing that corner position. If you stay on top and eliminate the big play and take the right angles, you’re gonna be one of the best, especially in this defense because we have a set technique.
(On what separates Richard Sherman from other cornerbacks) The thing that separates Sherm, he’s so patient. It’s crazy how patient Sherm is.
(On the togetherness of the team) When you come together and fight for the same thing, it’s powerful.