Seahawks All Pro safety Earl Thomas recently told ESPN's Ed Werder that he won't be ready when Seattle's training camp opens next week, and his status for the Week 1 opener at St. Louis is still uncertain. He said:
"I'm unsure about everything at this point. I will find out more when I get back to Seattle on [July] 30th when I take my physical."
After the season ended, the most common sentiment from the Seahawks beat guys that cover the team was that Earl Thomas has never missed an NFL game and this injury wouldn't be the reason he'd break his 90-game streak, including playoffs.
League source on Earl Thomas surgery: "Will be good to go when needed for next year... Never missed a game. Will not change." #Seahawks— John Boyle (@johnpboyle) February 5, 2015
Thomas is recovering from a torn labrum, and timelines for that can vary pretty wildly depending on pain threshold and individual healing speed. Werder made waves earlier this offseason too when he tweeted that the timeline for Thomas' recovery was six to eight months, but the general reaction at the time was that that number was a very conservative timeframe and a wait-and-see approach would be best. Well, we are still a month-plus out from the September 13th opener, and the panic is again rising.
The full recovery timeframe of eight months would've put Earl into late October for a return (he had surgery on February 24th). Under the assumption that NFL players in peak physical condition at peak physical age with world class surgeons and rehab facilities at their disposal could beat that full timeframe, many had surmised that Thomas could perhaps put himself closer to that six-month recovery guess. That would be August 24th, which is a full month away from today and about three weeks before the Seahawks' first game.
Both coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider said last week at the NFL combine that they expected Thomas to be ready for the start of the regular season, though he could miss some of training camp and some preseason games.
"It's a normal procedure, so he should do well,'' Schneider said.
In that article, Condotta consulted Dr. Neal ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles who has performed surgeries on athletes such as NBA player Kobe Bryant and baseball pitcher Zack Greinke, and ElAttrache told him that "there's no reason Thomas won't be back for the start of the season."
"I think it would be reasonable to think he would be ready by the beginning of the season,'' ElAttrache said.
"Usually with a typical labrum repair, especially for a football player, a contact-collision sport, generally we like to wait at least six months. Sometimes they try to come back a little sooner, and some guys can come back a little sooner. But about six months is what we aim for. We've had a lot of guys in the NBA go back much sooner. But football, especially at that position, is a little different. You probably want as much healing as you can get.''
I wrote this back on February 24th and I'll reiterate it here: Right now, my best guess is that Earl will be on the final legs of his recovery by the time the preseason rolls around and he'll be in a good enough shape to return once the season starts. For now, I'm not freaking out. You never know though -- Earl may be having a slower-than-expected recovery or may have suffered a setback -- but until we hear that specifically, I would surmise this is just Thomas being conservative publicly until he knows exactly what his status will be for Week 1.
If he cannot go to start the year, expect DeShawn Shead to get some action in the deep middle, and perhaps Steven Terrell in some cases. I think the Seahawks would likely have to alter the way they do things slightly -- there aren't many Earl Thomases floating around -- but Pete Carroll expressed confidence in Shead as the primary safety backup earlier this offseason so they're surely going to be preparing with the threat of playing without Earl. Hopefully it will not come to that.