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Earl Thomas returns to practice for first time since February surgery; Seahawks release ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer

VIDEO: Earl Thomas returns to Seahawks practice

Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas III returns to practice following off-season labrum surgery.
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Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas III returns to practice following off-season labrum surgery.

One hero has returned. A real hero has exited.

The Seahawks welcomed back All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas to practice this morning. It was his first practicing since surgery Feb. 24 to repair the separated shoulder through which he played the NFC championship and Super Bowl last season.

He wore a red, no-contact jersey and a brace over his shoulder down his upper arm. But with 3 1/2 weeks still remaining until Seattle’s opener Sept. 13 at St. Louis, today was more evidence Thomas will make his 91st consecutive regular-season and playoff start to begin his career against the Rams. That’s despite rampant but never truly viable fears he’d miss real games because of an initial estimated recovery time of six to eight months.

“To me, I think I’ve seen all I needed to see today. I was flying around,” Thomas said. “We’ll see.”

Thomas made plays in the air on balls at their highest points during position drills with fellow defensive backs. He showed – and said he felt – full range of motion with his left arm above his repaired shoulder. He did some group drills and a few snaps of team scrimmaging then watched the final team drills.

“I thought I looked pretty good out there,” he said.

He wasn’t smiling.

Thomas said his first surgery made him have “doubts” about whether he loved the game anymore. He said those doubts ended in May when he got back to team headquarters and around his teammates.

Thomas said he has stayed in touch with fellow starting safety Kam Chancellor. Seattle team leader is in the 19th day of his holdout from training camp, unhappy with the $4.55 million he is scheduled to earn this year.

“I just keep sending him text messages,” Thomas said. “I haven’t talked to him in a couple weeks but last time I talked to him I just said, ‘Come home. We miss you.’

“I know I do.”

NATE BOYER RELEASED

The Seahawks released undrafted rookie free agent long snapper Nate Boyer this morning. The ex-U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret said after last Friday’s preseason opener in which he snapped on place kicks that he knew it could have been his only NFL game.

The team likely knew then it would be. As the Seahawks took CenturyLink Field just before kickoff against Denver, the veteran of multiple war tours in the Middle East led the team out carrying a large American flag.

“It felt good,” Boyer said Friday, beaming over a black T-shirt with red and blue rifles, machine guns and pistols shaped into the form of the Stars and Stripes flag. “I enjoyed it. You never know, this might be the only one I get.”

It was. Once Seattle re-signed veteran, dead-on long snapper Clint Gresham this offseason through 2017, before signing Boyer out of the University of Texas in May, it was obvious Gresham was going to be this team’s one snapper. Yet the Seahawks got Boyer onto game film for other NFL teams to review and possibly use as a reason to sign him.

That’s far more than he could have fathomed while dodging IEDs in Afghanistan a few years ago.

His exit was as classy was his entrance to Seattle in May:

His was a remarkable story to cover while it lasted.

▪ Boyer’s roster spot is filled. Seattle signed Jake Waters, an undrafted rookie free agent who was Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett’s quarterback at Kansas State through last season. Waters arrived at 2 a.m. and was on the field throwing with Russell Wilson and R.J. Archer here in Renton later this morning. No. 2 quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is out at least two weeks and possibly longer with a high-ankle sprain.

Waters played two seasons with Lockett after arriving at K-State from junior college. Lockett is already helping him with Seattle’s playbook, which was a foreign language to the new quarterback during today’s practice.

▪ All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was back practicing after missing three workouts and the exhibition opener against Denver with a hip-flexor strain.

▪ Defensive end Frank Clark sat out team drills. Coach Pete Carroll had said Monday the team’s top rookie draft choice had a sore ankle after playing with one Friday.

▪ Tharold Simon was in pads and practicing with his fellow cornerbacks for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery.

▪ It was day 2 of Seattle’s change to previous starting RT Justin Britt at left guard and former backup LT and college TE Garry Gilliam as the starting RT. Drew Nowak was again the first-team center. Keavon Milton, a former TE with Cleveland who has been one of five guys to be the first-team LG this month in practices, was the second-stringer there today.

▪ Jimmy Graham is human, part 4: The new, star tight end dropped a pass from Archer over the middle during team scrimmaging, the ball smacking off his hands. It was maybe the fourth ball he’s dropped in 14 camp practices.

▪ Further proof Carroll rewards guys who perform in preseason games with promotions in subsequent practices: Ronald Martin was again the first-team free safety and Dion Bailey the starting strong safety for the second consecutive day. T.Y. McGill, the undrafted rookie free agent who was outstanding in the second half of Friday’s exhibition opener, was the No. 2 defensive tackle in team scrimmaging.

▪ Douglas McNeil, the converted wide receiver trying cornerback, missed another day of practice with a sore ankle.

▪ Kicker Steven Hauschka chipped more balls off the edge of practice field onto a green floating about 100 yards away in Lake Washington than Champions Tour pro John Inman, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and Archer did to win a post-practice contest to help publicize this weekend’s Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

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