RENTON, Wash. – Which player does Earl Thomas believe would be the hardest to replace on Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning defense?
Earl Thomas, of course.
“Just because they ask the free safety to do a lot,” he says. “You have to be aware of every situation and be a great communicator, like a quarterback.”
That’s part of the recipe for success here as the Seahawks open their 2014 training camp: Prepare as if you’re irreplaceable, and do everything you can to avoid being replaced.
For the Seahawks to repeat as champions, that mentality will have to play a big role. Coach Pete Carroll, in a characteristically subtle effort to promote a “next man up” environment, invoked the name of a famous starter-turned-backup in comments following the first practice. Tackle Michael Bowie tweaked a shoulder, Carroll said, giving the first-team reps to second-round rookie Justin Britt out of Missouri.
“Bowie opened the door,” Carroll said. “Remember that Wally Pipp story…”
Seattle’s roster has demonstrated its Pipp-for-Gehrig potential more than once in recent seasons, most notably in the elevation of cornerback Byron Maxwell when Brandon Browner was suspended late last season. Whether the same thing happens in the case of training camp holdout Marshawn Lynch and heralded dark-horse backup Christine Michael is anyone’s guess, but the Seahawks don’t sound as if they’ll bend over backwards to get the contract dispute settled two years after restructuring Lynch’s deal:
Said Carroll: “It's disappointing Lynch is not here, by his choice.”
In an interview with ESPN radio on Friday, general manager John Schneider brought up the Browner-Maxwell scenario in describing the team’s position on Lynch.
"It's the environment here of the next man up,” he said. “That's no disrespect to Marshawn. Everyone knows what he can do.”
Lynch, 28, is one of the few Seahawks who didn’t take advantage of the instant celebrity that came with winning a Super Bowl, one of several reasons cited by previous champions as a cause of dreaded Super Bowl hangover (there hasn’t been a repeat winner since the Patriots in the 2004 season.)
In these last five months since Super Bowl XLVIII, bit players became local celebrities, starters grew into big names and stars became megastars. Thomas, who signed a four-year, $40 million extension making him the league’s highest paid safety, found himself posing for magazine photographers, acting in TV commercials and spending his offseason in places like Portland, Las Vegas and Los Angeles instead of back home in Texas.
How do you stay in shape on a media tour?
“You adapt,” Thomas says. “The reason Floyd Mayweather is so great is that he can adapt to what the other fighter is trying to do to him. So as a competitor, if you’re looking for ways to keep an edge, you’re going to figure out how to do what’s important. And football is most important.
"Like, anytime I’m about to take a shower I’ll take a squat and just sit there,” he says. “Most of everything is just mental. If you sit there longer than your body wants to, you’re pushing your limits.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
Here’s a better question: Are the Seahawks still the best team in the NFL?
“Definitely,” Thomas says. “The only thing that’s changed is how much we know now and our understanding of our roles. Even the so-called weakest link on our team is great.”