SEATTLE – As the press python constricted to squeeze every last thought out of Earl Thomas on Sunday afternoon, the other half of the Seattle Seahawks’ safety combination watched with amusement from a few lockers away.
“Pay the man!” Bradley McDougald hollered, playing faux labor agitator.
Boy, that practice boycott this week really drove a wedge between Thomas and his teammates, didn’t it?
But let this be a dissenting vote. Don’t pay the man.
And not for the reason that he’s already being paid – $8.5 million this NFL season in the final year of a $40 million deal. Not because he has a contract to fulfill. Not because that to extend or renegotiate now would send a message through the Seahawks locker room that management is open for business.
And don’t think about paying him even to keep just one of the core elements of Seattle’s now-splintered greatness happy and on board through what is obviously going to be a painful recalibration.
Here’s why you don’t pay him – not right now anyway – and you don’t trade him, as reports suggested might happen as soon as Monday:
Because he’s drama.
And the Seahawks need every last watt and therm that drama provides to keep their enterprise from instant irrelevance.
Case in point: Sunday’s 24-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys (speaking of irrelevance).
Yes, Pete Carroll finally committed to running the ball as he’s insisted for months was to be his team’s tonic. Ran it a lot, in fact, even when success was modest. Yes, Russell Wilson had a steady, efficient game with a couple sensational throws, and the Seahawks didn’t have to go all sandlot and run him sideline to sideline to make it happen. Yes, the offensive linemen – with Joey Hunt subbing at center and a shuffle at the guards – actually played as if they were getting paid, and Germain Ifedi’s number was not mentioned once all afternoon by referee Carl Cheffers.
All these things and a brisk pass rush that sacked Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott five times were central to Seattle’s victory.
But Earl Thomas was the light and the heat.
And this was as inevitable as the guy who robs a hitter of a home run being the first batter up in the next half of the inning.
As soon as Thomas skipped a couple of practices last week in his ongoing cold war with Seahawks management – call it a “hold in” since his preseason holdout came to naught – you knew the CenturyLink marquee would not have room for any other names this afternoon.
This was confirmed by two spectacular interceptions off deflections – though it was established in warmups, by Thomas’ own account.
“A couple of Cowboys coaches – I don’t know if they were trying to play psychological games – but they were like, ‘You ready for the trade tomorrow?’” Thomas reported.
Of course, Thomas himself started that trade talk way back last December after a Seahawks win in Dallas, when he snagged Cowboys coach Jason Garrett outside the locker room and told him, “If y’all have the chance, come get me.” The Cowboys tried over the summer, purportedly offering a second-round draft pick that Seattle deemed insufficient.
And which Thomas must have considered an insult, given his own assessment of his worth.
Because after doing the Edwin Diaz thing with a juggling fourth-quarter pick at the Seattle 15-yard line as the Cowboys were driving to make it a one-score game, Thomas stood before the Dallas sideline and made a grand, taunting bow.
OK, he could have been showing his backside to his bosses, but he insisted otherwise.
“I felt like that in the moment,” he explained. “If (the Cowboys) were going to trade for me and extend me, they should have did it.”
Thomas’ practice truancy triggered considerable tap-dancing Sunday. Carroll said he hadn’t even sorted it out with Thomas – that will come this week. Wilson happy-talked himself in circles. Defensive end Frank Clark said that while “I’m not going to say he doesn’t need to practice – I’m not giving you the Allen Iverson line,” the Seahawks aren’t going to trip out over it.
“Earl’s our brother,” he said. “We know where Earl’s mind is.”
It’s looking out for No. 1 – while still trying to play for Nos. 2 through 53.
“I need to make sure my body is 100,” Thomas said. “I’m invested in myself. If (management was) invested in me, I would be out there practicing. But if I feel anything – I don’t give a damn if it’s small, I got a headache – I’m not practicing. But I don’t want that to be taken the wrong way.”
He knows some fans surely will – even the ones who cheered like crazy when Thomas made his two picks.
“I just want to be appreciated,” Thomas said.
Well, no. He wants to be paid. But don’t.
The drama drain would be too much.
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