The Seahawks' veterans are taking the next step in offseason workouts in this spring's walk-up to summer training camp.
Earl Thomas is not in step with them.
Seattle began the first of three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) Monday at team headquarters in Renton. The Seahawks also will be on the practice field for no-pads workouts Tuesday and Thursday this week, May 29-30 and June 1 next week and June 4-7. It's the third of four offseason phases before training camp begins July 26. The fourth phase is the mandatory veteran minicamp June 12-14.
That may be the only part that entices Thomas to show up.
The three-time All-Pro safety wasn't at the start of OTAs on Monday, as expected. He hasn't been at any team workout since last season ended on New Year's Eve.
Why? Because these practices and meetings are still voluntary, per the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Coaches, of course, have a different view of "voluntary" this time of year—call it "strongly encouraged." But the letter of the NFL contract law remains the same.
"Veterans sometimes look at those rules and they see 'voluntary,' and they see it differently than other guys," coach Pete Carroll said when I asked him about Thomas two weeks ago, at the end of the team's minicamp for rookies.
"So, we’ll see.”
On Monday, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner ended an interview on the Seahawks' flagship radio station, Seattle's KIRO AM, with an unsolicited show of support for his star teammate.
"Before we get off, I would like to take this time to shout out to Earl Thomas," Wagner told 710 ESPN Seattle. "I think he’s an amazing player. I think he’s an amazing person. He’s a Hall of Famer. And just let him know that we’re over here wishing for the best in that situation and we’re thinking about him, and I just want him to know that from this end."
Asked by the station's host why he felt the need to voice support for Thomas over the air, unprompted, Wagner said: "Just because he needs to know. He needs to know that we appreciate him over here."
That's opposite what Wagner and Thomas had going in December, after Thomas said Wagner should not have played hurt in a pivotal division game at home against the Los Angeles Rams. Wagner was limited by a hamstring injury, and the Rams smacked the Seahawks 42-7 in Seattle to win the NFC West and effectively end the Seahawks' playoff streak at five seasons.
So at least through all their upheaval this offseason these Seahawks have progressed from that.
The team can begin fining Thomas if he misses any of that June 12-14 minicamp, or training camp.
Thomas isn't in the mode of giving away money. He's the opposite. He's seeking a new, third contract and wants to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL beyond his deal that ends after the 2018 season. That means at or above the $13 million per year and $40 million guaranteed, what Kansas City gave his 2010 draft classmate Eric Berry last year. He also has stated he wants to remain a Seahawk—at his price, that is.
If Thomas, who turned 29 on May 7, stays away from the mandatory minicamp next month that would indicate he may be willing to lose money over his principle into training camp, too.
But Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last month he's been told by Thomas' representatives that the six-time Pro Bowl free safety will not hold out into training camp or the season, as fellow safety Kam Chancellor did for naught while seeking a new deal three years ago.
Schneider has also said the Seahawks' precedents of getting extensions done with core players before they play out their final contract seasons does not apply to Thomas. The GM has said that's because this is a third contract for him, not the second ones that others—for Thomas, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin—have been.
The Seahawks have other contract issues besides Thomas' beyond this year. Most prominently, they must plan for giving Wilson a new, third contract at $30-million-plus per year this time next year. The franchise quarterback's deal ends after 2019. And the market for elite quarterbacks continues to rise. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers next in line to push that going rate even higher.
The Seahawks have had stars skip OTAs and offseason workouts in previous springs. Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett used to stay at his winter home in Hawaii then show up for the mandatory minicamp and training camp to avoid fines. Former cornerstone running back Marshawn Lynch also usually only showed up when he was mandated to, usually by the start of training camp.
Thomas has been publicly preparing for the possibility the transitioning Seahawks will decide to let him leave rather than give him a new, rich deal as he approaches 30 years old.
In December, after a win at Dallas in his home state of Texas, Thomas went to the Cowboys' locker room and told coach Jason Garrett to "come get me." A few minutes later in the locker room in Arlington, Texas, that Christmas Eve day, Thomas said he meant when Seattle "kicks me to the curb."