Image Courtesy of PressBoxOnline.com
By Jack Cherico
On August 23, 2020, Baltimore Ravens star safety, Earl Thomas, was told to pack his bags and to not return to the practice facility the following day. A four-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion was cut. Why? What happened? The news is scandalous and shocking. However, if you trace back to 2018, it is easily seen that Thomas’ troubles began then.
When did it begin for Thomas? In the early to middle 2010s, the Seattle Seahawks were led by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, quarterback Russell Wilson, and the famed “Legion of Boom”, which in its heyday consisted of free safety Earl Thomas, strong safety Kam Chancellor, and cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. This fearsome four-some terrified opposing quarterbacks and the Legion totaled a whopping 77 interceptions from the years 2011-2018.
The Seahawks peaked in 2013 during Super Bowl 48, a 43-8 drubbing of the Denver Broncos. In 2014, the Legion was ranked 1st overall defense, and in 2015 they were ranked 5th. After this culmination of efforts, everyone fell out of place, with Browner leaving for the New England Patriots in 2014, Chancellor retiring in 2017, and Sherman leaving for the San Francisco 49ers in 2018.
In the 2018 season, Thomas was left pretty much by himself, and if he was going to remain with the Seahawks, he wanted a little pay boost. At that time, Thomas was towards the end of a $40 million four-year contract, but he was entering his last year and wanted more security. In an effort to holdout, and force the Seattle front office to come to the table, Thomas failed to attend practice, began lashing out at coach Pete Carroll, and even went as far as asking-then coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys to sign him.
Unfortunately for Thomas, he broke his tibia in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, proceeded to flip the bird towards the Seahawks sideline, and then later said to ESPN ‘“I don’t regret my decision, …If my teammates felt like it was toward them, I regret that part. But I don’t regret doing that to Pete.” Wow, talk about a complete breakdown in the player-coach relationship.
In the off-season, Thomas signed a four-year, 55 million dollar deal with the Baltimore Ravens, and in the 2019 season, the Ravens were the number three ranked defense and allowed less than 5,000 passing yards all season. All seemed good in Charm City, especially after the Ravens, led by Quarterback Lamar Jackson, went 14-2, and looked great going into the 2020 season. It is at this time, that Thomas’s Baltimore experience began to go downhill.
On August 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas, police were called at 3:41 a.m. to investigate a domestic dispute between Thomas and his wife Nina. Nina had attacked Thomas and was arrested for holding a loaded gun less than a foot from his head. Nina’s motivation for attacking Thomas was because she found him, and his brother Seth, in bed with other women. Police reports and cheating scandals was how Thomas entered the Ravens summer training camp. Was this the reason for his ultimate demise?
Teammates reported that Thomas was late to practice, “unfocused,” and was starting to become a locker room cancer. One unnamed source, who has been in contact with multiple Ravens players said, “Easily the most disliked guy in that locker room,… Not even close. They put up with a lot last year but it’s all about trying to win a Super Bowl there now, and guys did not want him around”.
Then, on August 21, Thomas had an on-field scuffle with opposing safety Chuck Clark, a 2017 6th round pick out of Virginia Tech. For those who have not heard of Clark prior to this, Clark was an integral part of the Ravens defense last year and was even given the helmet headset so he could call the defensive plays on the field. This made Clark significantly more important than Thomas, and thrust Clark into a very promising position going into the season.
From what the reports are out of camp, and some video footage in a now-deleted post by Thomas, Thomas blew a coverage on tight end Mark Andrews, and Clark hit his own helmet in disgust. Thomas takes exception to this, and they have a fistfight.
Thomas has been dismissed from practice and his contract is terminated. So you ask, why was Earl Thomas, a player that remains a top 10 safety terminated? It is clear that no amount of talent in the world will let you overcome attitude problems and a lack of team-first mentality. His behaviors, on and off the field, have put him on the sidelines.
From the Ravens’ front office perspective, this move makes perfect sense, as Thomas was slated to make 10 million dollars in guaranteed money next year. This money saved is very important because Jackson will need a big contract at some point, as well as pro bowlers Ronnie Stanley and Matthew Judon who are 2021 free agents. The only way they are absolved of this financial burden is if Thomas displayed conduct detrimental to the team.
The Ravens also have young safety DeShon Elliott waiting in the wings, and they are confident he and Clark will be a more than suitable safety tandem. As for Thomas, there still might be a place in the league for the former All-Pro, but at the ripe age of 31, he will have to clean up his act, on and off the field, before he ever gets another big-money deal, especially from a Super Bowl contender.