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Commentary: Earl Thomas’ release from Ravens was an overdue shot of humility for former Seahawk

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 26, 2020

In this Nov. 17, 2019 photo, Baltimore Ravens free safety Earl Thomas waits for a play during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Baltimore.  (Nick Wass/Associated Press)
In this Nov. 17, 2019 photo, Baltimore Ravens free safety Earl Thomas waits for a play during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Baltimore. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Truth, Part 1: Earl Thomas is the most honest, candid NFL player I can remember interviewing. The former Seattle Seahawk’s unfiltered responses were as refreshing as they were compelling.

I can’t recall the safety being rude or condescending or phony to the media during his time here, and when you’re playing a game as emotional and taxing as football, that’s impressive.

Truth, Part 2: Despite that, it seems somewhere along the way Thomas became an egomaniac whom the Seahawks were wise to let go.

On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens cut Thomas as his unpopularity in their locker room appeared to reach a crescendo. The tipping point came after he punched fellow safety Chuck Clark during practice last week.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he felt badly for Thomas, which isn’t surprising given how Carroll speaks incessantly well of his former players. But Thomas isn’t a sympathetic figure here. He just got hit with an overdue shot of humility.

Remember, in 2017, two years after the Seahawks had made him the league’s highest-paid safety, Thomas told ESPN that they “don’t respect me like they need to” when they refused to offer an extension. But this was simply standard practice in Seattle, where the brass never extends the contracts of players with more than one year left on their deals.

Nevertheless, after Thomas’ Seahawks beat the Cowboys on Christmas Eve that same year, the Texas native ran over to Dallas coach Jason Garrett and told him to “come get me.”

The next year, Thomas sat out the preseason in hopes of getting an extension but did not do so quietly.

Playing on a four-year, $40 million contract, he wrote on Instagram that “the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten.” After returning to the team so as not to forfeit game checks, he admitted he sat out a practice that week to avoid risking injury. A week later, after breaking his leg vs. the Cardinals, he flipped Carroll the bird while being carted off the field.

None of this means it was inevitable that Thomas would cause tension with the Ravens after signing with them in 2019. But the aforementioned acts suggest that Thomas’ biggest fan was clearly Thomas. So when reports emerged that he was abrasive with teammates or regularly tardy, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. His final years in Seattle shed light on what Thomas was becoming.

“Easily the most disliked guy in that locker room,” a source told CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora in regard to Thomas’ relationship with fellow Ravens. “Not even close. They put up with a lot last year, but it’s all about trying to win a Super Bowl there now, and guys did not want him around. It was really bad way before the thing with Chuck Clark.”

Truth, Part 3: Thomas is one of the greatest safeties to play the game and may have been the most imposing member of the Legion of Boom.

He is a likely Hall of Famer, and despite his unceremonious exit is a surefire future member of the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor.

For a good portion of the 12s, any character flaws are inconsequential, as he’ll never have to buy a drink in this town again.

But if we’re being Thomas-like honest, we have to recognize that something hasn’t been right with him.

People respond to adversity in different ways. A guy such as Richard Sherman tore an Achilles tendon and came back to be one of the most productive cornerbacks in the league. A guy such as Antonio Brown, well … not so much.

We’ll see what Thomas does. It could go either way. What’s certain is that he had to be cut.

The Ravens needed to do it, and frankly, Thomas needed it, too.

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