Describing Earl Thomas’ stunning attributes is much more fun than reminding you he dutifully shows up for work every day.
But now that he’s done it over a longer stretch than any Seahawks defensive player in history, it’s worth a tip of the hard hat to him.
You’re already familiar with the long list of Thomas’ superlatives.
There’s the animated cartoon speed. (Kam Chancellor once said it was like playing next to the Tasmanian Devil.)
And there are rumors his intensity allows him to shoot laser beams from his eyes. (Doug Baldwin said Wednesday when he first practiced against Thomas, he “thought something was wrong with him.”)
And that uncanny instinct. (Richard Sherman: “He’s everywhere you need him to be, and he’s everywhere quarterbacks wish he wasn’t.”)
Thomas’ performance against Atlanta last weekend was every bit as dominating as any he’s made on his way to five Pro Bowls in his previous six seasons.
But today, I’m going to applaud the Seattle free safety for something far more mundane, something that should make Thomas a hero for the common fan.
Thomas has stretched his string of consecutive starts (including playoffs) to 113 – more than any defensive player in franchise history. If he finishes the season healthy, he’ll edge Chris Gray’s franchise record of 123.
It’s the longest active streak in the NFL for safeties.
This is not to say Thomas has been uninjured. But nothing has kept him off the field.
Injuries, I’m beginning to think, are a little afraid to go near Thomas.
When he turned pro out of Texas, every scouting report cited Thomas’ physical skills and playmaking ability, but each questioned his size and strength. He was 5-foot-10 and barely 200 pounds.
But 113 games later, nobody doubts his durability.
“Earl’s really been hot lately,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s been in the right spot a bunch.”
At times early in his career, Thomas’ confidence and aggressiveness got him in trouble, and Carroll had to “reel him back in … (because) he was trying to do too much.”
Sherman has started in the secondary with Thomas since the 2011 season and says “he looks as good as he’s ever looked – Earl is playing confidently,
trusting himself, playing instinctual.”
Sherman continued his description of Thomas’ game: “Tenacity, relentlessness, fearlessness.”
From his receiver spot, Baldwin has been studying Thomas on the practice field in recent weeks. A little of it is that he’s trying to see if he can mess with Thomas’ focus, but it’s more an attempt to decode how he’s hard-wired.
“What makes him unique is his unwavering focus day in and day out, in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, in the game,” Baldwin said. “He’s always got his laser focus locked on. He’s always prepared; he sees everything before it happens.”
Baldwin thinks Thomas only recently has begun to be comfortable enough to loosen up and reveal his personality a little more in the locker room.
“He’s so passionate about the game of football,” Baldwin said. “He loves it with all his heart.”
Thomas’ value to the Seahawks was never more evident than at the end of the Atlanta game. On the last six defensive plays, he made a tackle, an interception, raced from out of nowhere to get a hurry on quarterback Matt Ryan and broke up a pass play with a savage hit to the receiver’s ribs.
And on the last play, he was in tight coverage with Sherman on a disputed pass breakup intended for receiver Julio Jones.
Thomas was everywhere. Omnipresent.
It was a stunning display at a point in the game when the Seahawks needed him the most, when he proved once again he’s as good at finishing games as he is at starting them.