Seahawks S Earl Thomas takes last year’s slights from Cam Newton personally

May 30, 2016, 10:01 AM | Updated: May 31, 2016, 10:06 am

"Cam Newton saying we run the same defense: I felt like he was talking to me personally because I knew he wouldn’t talk to us like that if my shoulder was right." (AP)


Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is the master of adding new chips to his shoulder for motivation. But last season, coming off a literal tear in his shoulder, made it especially easy for the 27-year-old to find a catalyst to re-focus.

“I think it was a lot of mental battles on my shoulder,” Thomas said on the “John Clayton Show” Saturday. “I think a lot of offenses recognized, and you could hear it in the way they talked. Especially Cam Newton saying we run the same defense. I felt like he was talking to me personally because I knew he wouldn’t talk to us like that if my shoulder was right. So all of that stuff you just hear and you just take it and you prepare for next season.”

Thomas underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder following the 2014 season. He wore a red jersey to avoid contact during the early portion of training camp the following season and was quoted as saying the rehab process was both mentally and physically challenging. He was critical of some of his performances during postgame interviews last season but never made excuses and never missed a game. He finished the season with a team-leading five interceptions.

Related: Carroll: Jimmy Graham, Thomas Rawls could be ready by regular season

Thomas is not the only member of the Seahawks’ vaunted defensive unit that did not take too kindly to being beaten twice last season by Newton and the NFC champion Panthers, but Thomas told Clayton how he creates perceived slights against him as extra fuel for his fire.

“Even game-after-game, you can sit in the (defensive back) room and your DB coach will get on your nerves and say like, ‘He wanted it more,'” he said. “Just little battles – I’m looking for anything to keep my competitive juices going and I found it. Game-after-game I built confidence, more and more confidence. Once you see your body go through the movements, and once you start hitting people in that shoulder, you feel like, OK I can play.”

The shoulder is no longer a lingering issue for Thomas entering the 2016 season. He said the biggest difference this offseason from last is that he is in better shape.

“I think when I play I exert a lot of energy,” he said. “This is my first offseason where I can really get into it and get my lungs prepared to really run and hit.”

Thomas says coaches are also increasingly giving him more freedom to roam in the defensive backfield and follow his instinct.

“Most of the time I know where the ball is going,” he said. “Me and (defensive coordinator Kris Richard) kind of butt heads about me taking too many chances sometimes but I’ve got to stick to my guns. And we’re getting a better relationship with that but most of all, they let me roam, let me be myself, let me play with personality back there. And I’m having fun.”

Other highlights from the conversation:

On the importance of DB Brandon Browner and DL Chris Clemons returning to the team: “People don’t understand, one little small piece missing effects the whole group. So just having those personalities back in the group, you’re grateful again and you realize why y’all were so dominant in the first place because you’re going to really fight for that guy because you really love him.”

On SS Kam Chancellor taking an expanded leadership role: “He’s really taken ownership of it. People really respect him. When he opens his mouth, even me, I’m going to listen because I respect what he has to say. That’s the biggest thing I see out of Kam. He’s really owning up to being a real leader.”

On the cornerback group being “real deep:” It starts off with (Richard Sherman). He does a great job of teaching. You’ll see him at practice in all of the corner’s ears, coaching them up. Sometimes he’s probably over-coaching them. But the young guys, they are long, rangy, just like Coach (Pete) Carroll likes them. The biggest thing about playing corner is you have to get the technique down – stepping and kicking and locking out. Owning the fade. If you can do that, you can play in this defense.”

On the defense getting “real creative” beyond Cover-1 and Cover 3: “Once we understand the connection of our defense, and how everybody is connecting to each other, that’s when the magic happens. If we stay connected within our lanes and our rush lanes and everybody is moving as one, that’s when we start getting the turnovers, we’re forcing the ball out, we’re keeping leverage on our tackles. That’s when we’re unstoppable.”

On the NFC West: “I was telling some guys today, every time we play an NFC West opponent you’re going to leave with some type of contusion. It gets really, really hectic down there. But, the thing I love about it is, we know them very, very well. So the preparation part is most about getting your heart ready to go out there and run and hit and really give it your all. Because you know they are going to give our offense all they can handle. But we’ve just got to hold up on our end of the deal.”

On the rivalry with the Cardinals reaching 49ers territory: “It’s getting there already. Especially when they came to our place and beat us like they beat us. And then we returned the favor. I think it’s getting right along with Pittsburgh and Baltimore; us and San Francisco. I think that’s our new rivalry.”

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Seahawks S Earl Thomas takes last year’s slights from Cam Newton personally