BY Art Thiel 08:21PM 08/24/2020

Thiel: The ‘adverse effect’ of Earl Thomas

Former Seahawks star, fired by Ravens, is often oblivious to consequences of his words and deeds. He once said to a rival coach, “Come get me.” Who dares now?

FS Earl Thomas was fired Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Nothing will change the fact that Earl Thomas was a spectacular contributor to the greatest sustained team success in Seattle’s modern history of pro sports.

In his continuing role as NFL drama king, however, he appears to be — to borrow Russell Wilson’s anointed nickname for himself — Mr. Unlimited. His fans hope the latter speculation doesn’t obscure the former truth.

Thomas Sunday managed to get himself fired from one of the NFL’s more successful teams, the Baltimore Ravens, for conduct unbecoming.

After fighting in practice Friday with a teammate, SS Chuck Clark, over a busted coverage — an episode that Thomas later admitted on social media was his fault — and getting sent himself sent home by coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens pushed the nuclear button on the relationship.

The stunner could cost the Ravens, who signed him to a four-year, $55 million free agent deal after he left Seattle, as much as $15 million this year and $10 million next year, although they could claw back some of the money should they win a grievance hearing.

Thomas on social media seemed take the blow with equanimity:

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has never betrayed a moment of bitterness toward Thomas, even after receiving a middle-finger salute as the All-Pro safety was carted off the field at Arizona Sept. 30, 2018, a broken leg ending his Seattle career. But Carroll’s lament Monday was mild.

“It’s been a tough time for Earl,” he told Seattle-area reporters via Zoom. “That’s a hard situation. I feel bad for him. I wish he could have avoided that from happening, whatever that was . . . that’s a bad state to get in when they send you home.”

Indeed, it is bad a state for Thomas, 31, now a free agent — don’t even ask: The Seahawks are thrilled with their safeties, Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams — but dismissed by two of the game’s best coaches. Harbaugh had reasons beyond the fight, according to Peter King of NBC:

He was not well-liked by his teammates. He had a pattern of being late, and in a recent practice, he made multiple assignment errors, causing defensive teammates to confront him about his preparedness. He missed at least one walk-through with no valid excuse. When the incident at Friday’s practice happened, very few if any teammates came to his defense. Teammates backed Clark, the significantly lesser name.

That doesn’t sound like the Thomas known around here, where he was a diligent, intense worker whose habits drew admiration from from his fellow travelers.

Perhaps things have changed since the notorious episode in April when his wife, Nina, was arrested in Austin for domestic violence when she caught Thomas and his brother in bed with women and pointed a gun at his head.

Thomas does have a way of sometimes being oblivious to the consequences of his deeds.

They can be small, like the time after the Seahawks lost 42-7 to the Rams, the worst home defeat of the Carroll era, when Thomas, responding to questions about Seattle’s numerous injuries, said LB Bobby Wagner’s sore hamstring limited him too much.

“To be totally honest, my personal opinion, I don’t think they should have played,” he said. “I think the backups would have did just as good . . . I think (Wagner)  just waited a little bit too long to take himself out.”

Thomas was being honest, and perhaps right. But those sorts of critiques in public are rare among players. An incensed Wagner heard the quote and fired back on Twitter that evening, since deleted, telling Thomas “to keep my name out yo mouth.”

And the episodes can be larger, such as after the Seahawks’ Christmas Eve 2017 win over Dallas, when Thomas sought out Jason Garrett entering his locker room, urging the Cowboys coach on national TV to “come get me” if he couldn’t work out a contract extension with the Seahawks.

When reporters asked why Thomas made such a startling move, Thomas shrugged and was dismissive: “People take life too serious. That’s just who I am.”

Part of who Thomas is, then, is that he is unfiltered — a dead-honest guy who isn’t always aware of the consequences. He has no filter.

So I asked Carroll Monday if he agreed.

“I don’t agree with that at all,” he said. “I get that maybe to you he was like that, but he wasn’t like that to me, or here. He was very quiet, very much to himself, and rarely spoke. I didn’t call on him that much because I knew he was uncomfortable with speaking out.”

The issue wasn’t about whether he was outspoken, as if he were Richard Sherman. The issue was whether Thomas understood how his words and deeds impacted people in ways he didn’t realize.

I asked Carroll whether the Garrett episode was an example of that.

“He didn’t weigh the situation,” Carroll said. “He thought it was really a harmless gesture. Because there’s media, it wasn’t harmless, in that it was brought out and questioned.

“I didn’t care. I didn’t worry about it. I know where he’s coming from, and it didn’t bother me a bit. I didn’t think was the right thing to do. I told him that. But, you know, so what?”

True, it wasn’t a huge deal. But Carroll made my point — Thomas didn’t weigh the situation. Same with Wagner. Same with the finger episode. Maybe it’s also part of what happened with his wife, and with the Ravens.

Sometimes people of high achievement are like that. The behavior isn’t out of spite, or meanness or malevolence. It’s an initial obliviousness of consequence to others. Where that comes from is hard to say. But it seems to be part of why he lost his job and potentially $25 million.

I asked Carroll if there was any consequence for Thomas regarding Garrett episode.

“You’ll never know,” he said, repeating: “You’ll never know.”

Maybe. If Thomas comes to back to town and I can buy him a beer, I might find out. He’s honest that way.

But I’d rather hear from Thomas that he’s in counseling. Neither Carroll nor the rest of us, including future NFL employers, can know him until he begins to know himself.


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  • Topcatone

    Why didn’t the Ravens trade him instead of cutting?

    • Seattle Psycho

      Not many teams he would actually go to can not would want that contract

    • jafabian

      Because no one would take him. They’d just wait until he was cut. The Ravens wouldn’t let him return to the team.

      • art thiel


    • art thiel

      No market at his price with his problems. Not showing up on time is a big deal for nearly every NFL coach.

  • Husky73

    Boundaries….fences……Thomas apparently has none.

    • art thiel

      Is he humble enough to learn?

  • jafabian

    Sorry to see Earl’s career wind down this way. Someone will pick him up, I’m predicting he’ll go to the Jets though if Clowney can’t find a taker for his services I don’t see how ET can at this point. I’m sure he’s thinking since the Cowboys are $15 million under the cap why don’t they just give all that to him? Ever since the BSwag episode ET has been slowly spiraling downward professionally and personally. Why that is only Earl knows. Before then he was a model citizen. If he doesn’t come to grips with what is going on with his life his next team will be his last.

    • eyeroq

      The Jets? He’s got better options than that. He doesn’t seem to be at a loss of suitors, the niners are one of the teams in pursuit.

      • art thiel

        Sherman wants him, but he thinks he’s getting the Seattle Earl. And Sherman can’t fix him.

      • jafabian

        The key will be who’s willing to pay him what he wants and according to the Jets are ranked 3rd in cap space and IIRC they could use a Pro Bowl caliber safety.

        • eyeroq

          He’s not exactly in position to command a premium salary, it’s hard to see the Jets significantly outbidding everyone else for his services to make signing with them worth it to him. Reports seem to indicate he’s got offsetting language in his contract that allows for future salaries earned if he’s cut by the Ravens count against whatever they’re still on the hook for. So he could just choose to opt out of football and get paid what he’s still owed by the Ravens since any salary he earns from another team will be that much less than what he’d get from the Ravens. He might want to seriously consider taking that flyer.

          • jafabian

            I just think based on past history the Jets will be blinded by Earl’s resume and overpay for him. It’s why they haven’t made the playoffs in ten years.

          • eyeroq

            Nah. New Jets GM Joe Douglas doesn’t do things like that. Not the same guy who signed Le’Veon Bell and CJ Mosley to big free agent contracts. Joe’s into making his mark by building through the draft, that’s why he was willing to part with Adams for a slew of picks. He’s not in any rush to try and win now. That’s why he didn’t get into any bidding wars for free agents this off season. If it was his predecessor Mike Maccagnan I could see your point. But Maccagnan likely wouldn’t have parted with Adams either, he would awarded him with the contract he was demanding.

    • art thiel

      Thomas has to be honest with himself, then decide if he can take it public in pursuit of a job.

  • Alan Harrison

    I can easily foresee the Ravens getting off the hook for violation of the basic players agreement. Which leaves ET3 without a job and without a salary. I can also see where Jerry Jones might say to himself that the guy wants to be here and low-ball him with a $3-4 MM offer, but no more than that. Sorry to see it, but not surprised, I guess, given his depiction in the media. I don’t know the man, so I might be completely wrong about him.

    • eyeroq

      Of the hook? Nah, it’ll go to arbitration and they’ll settle. Maybe Ravens claw back some of it, they’re definitely going to try and seem to be throwing out all the meat to the press that they’ve got a solid case. But player’s union will have his back and no way is a judge in arbitration going to let Ravens off the hook unless he’s found to be in clear violation of his contract which we’d have already heard about if he had.

      • art thiel

        There will be more to come on this, but the Ravens gain nothing by public disclosure because it will hurt them with current and future players.

        • eyeroq

          Will it? It sounds like the entire team was onboard with the decision to let him go, and some of the stories put out by the press were from anonymous sources among the players themselves. Not one dissenting source rose to his defense.

          I understand your point but I think this might be a special exception that will make it easy to dismiss for current or future players. The Ravens are still considered a class organization with a great coach, their rep remains intact despite all this. Unless a different narrative emerges it sounds like Earl was a special headcase.

    • Husky73

      We know him by his deeds.

    • art thiel

      After a firing like this, I think teams will give great pause before offering a job.

  • John

    The skeptic in me makes me wonder if this was orchestrated behavior, on the part of Thomas, just to get himself on the Cowboys. I have no proof of this but I just wonder.

  • woofer

    Well, if America can’t have football it can at least have daily psychodrama starring football players. That’s almost as good.