As every Seahawk down to the groundskeepers extended their appreciation to Kam Chancellor for ending his two-month holdout, his All-Pro partner at safety extended his leadership to the guy everyone will forget now that Chancellor is back.
Earl Thomas walked up to DeShawn Shead on Wednesday morning during the first, walk-through practice that signaled Chancellor’s return from his 54-day holdout. Thomas thanked the fill-in safety for much of August and again throughout last weekend’s loss at Green Bay, when Shead played all 71 defensive snaps at strong safety and cornerback and another 17 on special teams. Shead played more than any other Seahawk against the Packers.
“It was on the indoor field, right before walk-through. He came up to me, said, ‘I appreciate you,’ and gave me a hug,” Shead said in front of his locker on Thursday. “I really appreciated that.”
The feeling was mutual.
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“Wednesday, when Kam came back, I just kind of grabbed (Shead) and hugged him and told him how much I appreciate everything that he did,” Thomas said. “He played corner, nickel, safety. He showed everybody in our room that he can play.
“He’s a very selfless guy. I know if I played all those snaps and the starter returns, and then I know it’s not going to happen like it’s been happening. … (But) he still has a good attitude about it.
“I’m just happy he got a shot. Because if it doesn’t work here, other teams see that. He’s a valuable piece to the process.”
Coach Pete Carroll has repeatedly called Shead a key part of the Seahawks’ program for his selflessness and versatility playing on special teams, at cornerback, nickel and at both strong and free safety — wherever and whenever the Seahawks need him.
Getting praised by the coach is one thing. Getting appreciated by a four-time All-Pro considered the best at his position is an even bigger deal for the 2012 undrafted free agent from Portland State.
“It did catch me off guard. It caught me off guard — in a good way,” Shead said. “It shows an appreciation for what I do here. I definitely was happy.
“Oh, man it definitely means a lot. It shows a lot of respect. … For Earl Thomas to show that? One of the best free safeties? It’s a big honor to get that.”
Shead is the reason Seattle has more flexibility in its secondary than last season, even with former starting cornerback Byron Maxwell gone to Philadelphia in free agency.
Defensive coordinator Kris Richard could think of only one previous player who’s bounced between cornerback and safety from week to week.
“It is rare. It is very rare. The only other guy that can come to mind is Carnell Lake — not to compare the two,” Richard said of the former Pittsburgh Steeler and member of the NFL’s 1990s all-decade team. “It’s just the way that they were both able to play the position.
“(Shead’s) been able to go out there and practice that safety, and get in the game and play corner. It’s just a testament to his level of preparation.”
STILL BUZZIN’ OVER KAM
A day later, Chancellor’s teammates were still smiling over his return.
“He even made checks we haven’t heard in a while,” end Michael Bennett said. “We were like, ‘Oh, damn, Kam’s back.’ ”
The ultra-intense Thomas was beaming like he hadn’t since before he separated his shoulder in January’s NFC Championship Game. Part of it was Thomas announced Thursday was his daughter’s third birthday — she was born during the “Fail Mary” win over Green Bay in 2012.
And a large part of it was when Thomas was talking about Chancellor.
Thomas said the defense can’t help but improve from its 0-2 start — beginning Sunday in the home opener against Chicago — simply because Chancellor is back in the middle of it.
Yet Thomas chided his partner, with whom he entered the league with Seattle in 2010, for dropping a couple of interceptions in Chancellor’s first practice of the season.
“He just had butterfingers,” Thomas said with a small grin, which for the ultra-intense free safety is huge.
Chancellor had been working out in Los Angeles through Tuesday. Then after what he said was a long night of prayer, he flew on a private jet to Seattle, telling few if anyone he was coming.
“It was a little weird. It was out of the blue,” Thomas said. “All of a sudden it was, ‘Oh, he’s here.’ ”
Chancellor remains exempt from the roster; the NFL granted that for up to two weeks. But there is a growing sense around the team that the Seahawks will activate him to the 53-man roster by 1:25 p.m. Saturday so that he can play against the Bears 24 hours later.
“I’m not sure if he’s going to be back out there on Sunday yet,” Richard said, “but he’s looked great out there at practice so far.”
Bennett was asked if a guy like Chancellor — 226 pounds, 6 percent body fat, according to Carroll — would be able to play an entire game four days after returning from a 54-day holdout and after not playing in any game since the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
“Maybe a guy not like you,” Bennett teased the questioner, “but like Kam, probably so. You’re a little out of shape, but Kam, he’s a great athlete.”
The questioner wasn’t from The News Tribune, by the way.
Bennett was a new addition to the injury report for a toe injury. He did not practice. But the fact the team had him speaking and smiling to the media from behind a podium suggests he will start as usual Sunday. … RB Marshawn Lynch fully practiced one day after sitting out with a listed calf injury. … LB Bobby Wagner was a full participant. He rested a sore ankle Wednesday.