Seahawks Insider Blog

Carroll ends the Earl Thomas-as-punt-returner "experiment," says All-Pro needs to focus on defense; Bryan Walters in there

Pete Carroll says "that after the long experiment and the time we spent doing this," All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is no longer the Seahawks' primary punt returner.

The coach cited not the risk of injury but the need for Thomas to focus solely on defense.

That means reserve wide receiver and former Charger Bryan Walters will be the primary punt returner Sunday in San Diego -- and for the foreseeable future. That is the reason he is on the team, why Seasttle re-signed the Ivy League's career punt-return leader days before last week's opener.

"The focus from Earl on the punt thing is so much because he wants to do so well, but I want to take that away from him," Carroll said before practice today. "So he's going to still be available on punt returns -- we will use him when we need him -- but we will use Bryan Walters back there and mix our guys as we go.

"I was just noticing in the game (Thomas last week against Green Bay) that he wants to do so well that his focus is challenged. And I'd rather his focus be on safety.

"He's not doing it."

Carroll mentioned wide receiver Doug Baldwin may also get some punt-return chances.

Carroll said he spoke with Thomas about the decision and the star understood -- and that Thomas actually had also been thinking about giving up punt returns, a task he did in the preseason and in last week's opener for the first time since his final season at the University of Texas six years ago.

"He sees it. He has such tremendous pride in his position and what he brings to this defense and what it takes to get that focus," Carroll said. "He sensed it also, so we really just talked it through. It makes sense to him, too.

"He actually had the same thought the night before I talked to him."

--Carroll said right now the nickel back for injured Jeremy Lane Sunday in San Diego will be Marcus Burley, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound cornerback for whom Seattle traded a sixth-round draft choice in 2015 last month. The coach said Josh Thomas, signed Monday after Carolina had waived him, will stay outside as a backup cornerback.

No mention of moving starting cornerback Byron Maxwell inside to nickel.

--Christine Michael ran Tuesday, is taking today off, and will try to test his injured hamstring again on Thursday. Carroll said the backup to starting running back Marshawn Lynch has an outside chance to play against the Chargers but a really good shot at playing next week against Denver at CenturyLink Field.

--Carroll was also asked about his reaction to the Ray Rice situation and newly released TMZ video. The head coach met with his players today to discuss how serious an issue domestic violence is in our society.

Carroll says he believes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell "got it right" in the Rice situation and unfortunately it took a while. Carroll says the commissioner did the best he could with information he had at the time.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting this:

--Chargers QB Philip Rivers said he understands why teams -- such as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week -- don't throw at all at Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. But Rivers said about Sunday's game: "Our approach is not to completely avoid" throwing in Sherman's direction, because that would make the rest of Seattle's defense only have to defend two-thirds of the field.