Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll chimed in Monday to give his support to Earl Thomas, who after breaking his leg Sunday in Arizona flipped off Seattle’s sideline.
Is there anyone outside of the Seattle Seahawks’ front office not sympathetic to the worries of safety Earl Thomas? Even coach Pete Carroll says we should give Thomas the benefit of the doubt to after the player on Sunday gave the middle finger to the Seattle sideline after breaking his leg.
It’s tough to be on the right side of history in the NFL. The league is notoriously zero-sum, where coaches get fired too early, players’ careers are often cut short and fans are short-tempered.
We hear from guys in football all the time that it’s an extremely emotional game — they tell us we don’t take that into consideration enough. And that’s probably true.
It’s easy to get caught up in the blame game of contract negotiations and depth charts and ignore the humanity of what is a very violent sport.
It sometimes takes a disaster like the one Thomas fell victim to Sunday afternoon in Glendale, Ariz., to shine a light on the tenuous professional circumstances of being an NFL player.
After Thomas crumpled to the ground near the goal line as the Cardinals tied the game at 17 with about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, he was driven off the field and to the locker room, his leg already in a cast.
As he made the 100-yard journey, he had on his face a 1,000-mile stare. And then, the finger.
Considering the stakes of every single game for Thomas this season, it’s understandable. The man who simply asked for a new contract or a trade like so many before him has been denied both by the front office of the Seahawks.
And so, he demonstrated in the form of a “hold-in,” playing only on Sundays for the team he once led to two Super Bowl appearances and a championship.
By not practicing and keeping himself in the best shape possible during the week, Thomas was attempting to avoid injury and maximize the value of his next contract. That plan broke down late against the Cardinals, as Thomas fractured the same leg he injured in 2016.
The Seahawks effectively stole money out of Thomas’ wallet by not giving him what he wanted over the last nine months.
Speaking to that tragedy Monday morning on radio in Seattle, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said:
“People that are criticizing whatever happened don’t understand. This was an earth-shattering moment for a kid. He’s trying to play this game he loves and all of sudden this happens again. He knew exactly what happened to him so he went right to what it’s going to take to get back.”
And we’re back to emotion. In a game whose nature is to slam and smack athletes against one another, careers change in an instant. Thomas, who has struggled with injury and decline since the days when Seattle was a perennial championship competitor, that became clear.
He did what he thought was best to support his teammates while staying healthy. The plan failed and Thomas’ future is unclear.
It’s entirely the fault of Seattle’s top-level decision-makers, who wanted to keep Thomas around to help their on-field product in 2018 while denying him a reasonable salary going forward.
For exactly the reasons Thomas knew this could be a make-or-break season, the Seahawks hesitated too.
“He had it all just totally figured out and was as emotional as you can get,” Carroll added in the radio interview.
Carroll gets it. Thomas knew all along. So what prevented the Seahawks from doing what was right?