Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Carroll says team wants Thomas ‘to be a Seahawk for the rest of his career’

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks congratulates free safety Earl Thomas #29 near the end of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field on December 5, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 31-14. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. – Wide receiver Doug Baldwin spoke for many people in and out of the Seattle Seahawks organization when he walked up to Earl Thomas on Wednesday and gave him a big hug.

Coaches, players and quite a few fans got a little more excited for the Seahawks’ quickly approaching season as Thomas ended his holdout and showed up at the VMAC for practice on Wednesday morning.

Baldwin said he was “ecstastic” to have Thomas back with the team.

“That’s my boy,” Baldwin said after practice. “Love him to death. You grow with somebody, you see somebody work for so long, how they operate, the type of person they are. It’s really hard to come by guys who think out of this stratosphere, as Bobby would like to call it. It was really exciting to have him back. Extremely exciting to have him back. I can’t wait to spend more time with him.”

So now that Thomas has reported, what’s next for him and the team?

Coach Pete Carroll said he’s still in the “information-gathering” stage. Thomas told the shape he’s in great shape and ready to play, but Carroll said it’s too soon to decide how much the All Pro free safety might play in the season opener on Sunday – or if he’ll even play at all in that game.

“He wants to play football,” Carroll said. “He’s ready to get back at it. This is a guy that’s been as dedicated to this game as anybody we’ve ever seen. He wants to play football. We had to deal with some business issues and that’s what he was dealing with, and it came back down to the love of the game. His love of the game is undeniable, and so we’re back at it.”

Though Thomas is back on the field, his hard feelings about the team not offering him a contract extension are still very much an issue. He posted on Instagram on Wednesday morning, saying “the disrespect has been noted and will not be forgotten.”

Carroll, however, said the Seahawks want Thomas with the franchise long-term.

“We’d like him to be a Seahawk for the rest of his career,” Carroll said. “That’s how we’ve always thought about it.  The rest of it we’ll take care of when the time’s right.”

Carroll doubled down on that sentiment later in the press conference.

“He’s a Seahawk,” Carroll said. “He’s always been, and will be one forever. I already said that. “

Middle linebacker Bobby  Wagner said the team quickly put the holdout behind and made a point of welcoming Thomas back into the fold. Wagner said he didn’t expect the defense would miss a beat.

“He’s Earl,” Wagner said. “He’s been in the program for quite a long time. We’ve been playing together for quite a long time. It’s kind of like if a guy was injured and missed a couple weeks and came back. We just embraced him and he stepped into his spot.

“He’s a once in a generation player. I assume from all the videos he posted that he’s been working out and we’ll be fine.”

Carroll said the team will proceed cautiously with Thomas’ playing time, keeping an eye to his long-term health even as it badly wants to get off to a fresh start against the Denver Broncos in a 1:25 p.m. game Sunday on the official home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX.

“We’ve got to run around and get him going,” Carroll said. “Normally the first time guys play, we kind of give them a “pitch count” and we work our way into it. We’ll see if that works. I noticed that Duane Brown didn’t do that last year (after his six-game holdout with the Houston Texans). They had intended to, but he played the whole game. We’ll see how it goes. Little different position so we’ll see how it works out.”