BY Art Thiel 06:38PM 09/10/2014

Thomas relieved of Seahawks punt return duty

WR Bryan Walters will take over for FS Earl Thomas, who fumbled a punt in the opener and is just too eager to run when a fair catch is often the smart decision.

Pete Carroll had a thoughtful moment, and realized Earl Thomas wasn’t suited to return punts. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — For reasons having nothing to do with health maintenance and everything to do with maintaining a hold on the football, FS Earl Thomas is being relieved of punt return duties by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. For a good reason — Thomas is way too amped.

“After the long experiment and time that we spent doing it, he’s not doing it,” Carroll, smiling, told reporters at his weekly presser. “He wants to do so well that his focus is challenged. I’d rather have his focus playing at safety.”

WR Bryan Walters, who has been off and on the Seahawk roster numerous times in his brief NFL career, will take punts Sunday in San Diego when the Seahawks play the Chargers.

In the first quarter of the opener against Green Bay, Thomas dropped a punt when teammate Richard Sherman had nearly his only major contact of the game — a block of the Packers’ Davon House into Thomas as he reached for the ball.

The fumble set up a 34-yard drive that became one of only two touchdowns the Packers scored in a 36-16 beat-down. Carroll is nearly religious when it comes to owning the ball, and it became clear that Thomas’s energy and impatience were not traits suitable for returns, when sometimes the smart move is a fair catch.

“He understands;  he sees it,” Carroll said. “He has such tremendous pride in his position and what he brings to defense and what it takes to get that focus. We really just talked it through. He actually had the same thought the night before when I talked to him.

“Bryan Walters has had a tremendous background in catching punts. He’s got great hands and great decision-making. As far as I’m concerned, we’re getting an excellent situation guide for us. (WR Doug Baldwin) will be back there too.”

Carroll has always contended that he had no concerns about his All-Pro safety getting hurt on returns, as many fans have lamented. But all it took was one fumble on a ball that should have been fair-caught to send up a red flag.

Walters, 27, a star at Kirkland’s Juanita High, went on to Cornell and became the Ivy League’s career leader in punt returns. In the Seahawks’ exhibition final in Oakland, he returned every punt and kickoff. In three preseason games, he returned nine kickoffs for a 25.4 average.

On another unsettled personnel front, the suddenly thin Legion of Boom, Carroll said newcomer CB Marcus Burley did well enough in his short week of work before the Packers to stay as the nickel back, which the Seahawks often used last week instead of a third linebacker.

For his first shot, I thought he looked really aggressive and I’m sure he’ll be a factor,” Carroll said. “We’re hoping that Marcus will take over that spot. It’s a spot that he’s familiar with.

“He had a really good preseason (in Indianapolis, where the Seahawks sent a sixth-round draft pick for Burley). You could really see him do the things we needed to see inside as a nickel guy, and outside covering. He tackled really well and he was really effective on special teams.”

Another newcomer, free agent CB Josh Thomas, will back up the outside corners, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell. That job was supposed to go to second-year man Tharold Simon, but he had a knee arthroscopically repaired and will miss Sunday’s game. With CB Jeremy Lane gone for at least eight weeks with a groin injury, the Seahawks are short in the back.

“We’re challenged by the depth situation,” he said. “We were really were counting on Tharold to be there and battling for us. We’ve taken a blow with Jeremy’s injury.

“The cool thing is that both of these guys (will) come back to us later on in the year and our depth will feel a lot different. In the meantime, we have to put it together in a hurry.”




  • lb

    Thank you Pete, now can someone replace Sherman on the punt return team as well

    • art thiel

      Russell Wilson likes trying new things.

  • Gerald Turner

    Why does not Paul Richardson return punts? Never did in collage? Out with an injury? What’s going on? On a lighter note, look for the Saturday night live skit this weekend where the commissioner has the disk of the wife beating placed on his desk, he comes into the room, and puts his coffee on it, uses it to prop up his monitor, uses it as a dust pan, but never sees the big letters that say, Ray beating wife in elevator.

    • art thiel

      Lack of NFL experience. Catching and running with a punt is not simple. Harvin always prefers KOR because it’s easier.

  • RadioGuy

    This is the right move. Thomas would’ve eventually figured it out, but he’s far too valuable to this team to risk taking a cheap shot while he’s vulnerable. As good as Sherman is, I think Thomas is the heart and soul of the Seattle defense. Rich is the roar of the engine but Earl is the fuel line.

    Besides, Walters is just fine back there. I’d like to see him on offensive sets more. Reminds me a bit of Largent: You don’t really notice him out there but he catches almost everything that comes his way.

  • jafabian

    I think Earl would have been great as the punt returner. Last Thursday I kept waiting for a Kenny Easley flashback and for some punk WR to not care about the penalty and clock Earl, taking him out of the game. Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t fair catch anything though I think he was just have a Joe Jarzynka flashback.