What did Earl Thomas do during the first Seahawks game he’s ever missed?
Did he pace around his house, nervous and frustrated he could not help from across the country as his teammates played at Tampa Bay?
Did the notoriously intense Thomas finally give up trying to watch the game on television and take his daughter, Kaleigh Rose, to the park?
No. He went to Buffalo Wild Wings. In Portland, Ore.
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Yes, the story of what the Seahawks’ three-time All-Pro free safety did during the first game he sat out because of injury or anything else, in college or the NFL, is so Earl Thomas.
“Yeah,” he said, “I watched it at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
And he tried to go somewhat incognito.
“Yeah, I had a hoodie on. Glasses,” he said. “Me, my wife, my brother, my daughter.
“To be totally honest, man, I’m trying to put that behind me, bro,” he said on his way out to practice fully for the second consecutive day on Thursday for Seattle’s home game Sunday night against Carolina.
His full day of work was another strong indication Thomas will make his 119th start Sunday in the 120 games he’s been on the team since Seattle drafted him in the first round in 2010.
It also assures he won’t be dipping into Buffalo sauce during this Seahawks game.
“It was definitely hard,” he said of watching his team lose without him last weekend. “Luckily, I had my wife and my daughter there with me. It was definitely a tough time. Very emotional. But I went to Portland with my family.
“I kind of kept my competitive spirit going by going to the Trail Blazers game.”
Thomas attended Portland’s win over the New Orleans Hornets at the Moda Center on Friday night. That was a few hours after his teammates left without him on their flight to Tampa, Fla. Thomas returned to the downtown Portland arena Sunday night to watch the Blazers, owned by Seahawks owner Paul Allen, play Thomas’ favorite team, the Houston Rockets. Houston is about an hour and 45 minutes west of Thomas’ hometown of Orange, Texas.
While his Seahawks were starting their long flight back to SeaTac, Thomas watched his Rockets beat the Blazers, 130-114.
So at least that went his way last weekend.
“It was just, you know, trying to find a way to keep my mind positive,” Thomas said. “I knew I would try to make it back for this week. I’m just happy to be back out there. It was just ... it was just weird for me to see the team out there without me.
“I know it’s not all about me, but it’s just, I’m a part of the team. So it was definitely weird for me to see that.”
Not nearly as odd as it had to have been for the patrons at that Buffalo Wild Wings.
Try to picture Thomas, three-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion, sitting in a restaurant among NFL fans watching TVs all around them with his hood up and sunglasses on — all while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a 14-0 lead faster than you can say “Another basket of Boneless with Caribbean Jerk, please.”
Did he stay silent behind his disguise and lay low to not attract attention?
“I was into it,” he said.
Of course he was.
“You can’t be silent. You can’t hide who you are when you are passionate about something like this,” Thomas said. “Luckily, people kind of knew who I was, but they kind of let me be.
“But it’s definitely hard, just watching it.”
Thomas said last Sunday was the first time since he was at West Orange-Stark High School in Texas that he missed a game. After redshirting his first season, he didn’t miss any in his next two years at the University of Texas before turning pro.
“Back in high school I missed one game, against Orangefield,” he said. “I had, like, a thigh bruise. That was the only game.”
Thomas strained his hamstring against Philadelphia on Nov. 20. The Seahawks decided Friday before the flight left for Florida that he would stay back, that it wouldn’t even be worth dressing and trying to play last weekend against the risk of missing any of the December drive to the playoffs. Seattle enters Sunday night’s contest three games up in the NFC West with five regular-season games remaining.
Thomas said even though he’s returning this weekend, he’s going to be working through his hamstring issue for a while.
“I knew I couldn’t really go,” Thomas said.
“I’m just still battling right now. I really don’t like to talk about it because I know what’s ahead of me (to be able to play for the rest of this season).
“Hopefully, you know, we’ll see.”
BRITT FULL GO AGAIN
Starting center Justin Britt practiced fully for the second consecutive day on Thursday, increasing the likelihood he also will start Sunday night.
Britt sat out last weekend’s loss, too, though he dressed as rookie Joey Hunt’s only backup on the roster. Britt has been the offensive line’s most consistent player this season.
The Seahawks listed Michael Bennett as limited in practice. Wednesday he was a full participant for the first time since arthroscopic knee surgery that has sidelined him the last five games. Teams must list as “limited” on their daily reports to the league any player who sits out any portion of a practice. So if Bennett took a drill off or a series off during team scrimmaging, for instance, that’s “limited.” All indications are the Pro Bowl defensive end remains on track to return Sunday night.
“Not only Michael Bennett,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said of his returning starters to the defense this week from injuries, “but Earl Thomas, DeShawn Shead, Mike Morgan.
“You know, that’s how we started the season.”
Shead has been limited in each of the last two practices. He also missed last weekend’s loss with a strained hamstring. Coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that Shead was ahead of Thomas in his recovery.
Paul Richardson remained out of practice for the second day in a row.
Troymaine Pope returned to full practice participation ahead of schedule. Carroll said this week the team’s leading rusher in the preseason was surprising the Seahawks’ medical staff with how quickly he is getting back from a high-ankle sprain.
Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a key to Seattle’s run defense this week against one of the league’s better rushing offenses, was new to the practice report. He was sick.
CARROLL ON McKNIGHT’S DEATH
Former USC and NFL running back Joe McKnight, 28, was killed Thursday in his home state of Louisiana in a road-rage incident outside New Orleans.
Carroll recruited McKnight to USC and coached him with the Trojans through 2009.
He issued this statement through his Twitter account Thursday: “Deeply saddened by the loss of Joe McKnight. This is a terrible tragedy. Everyone loved Joe and we are going to really miss him.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle