Whether or not Earl Thomas should have raised his middle finger in the direction of his team’s sideline, this much is clear: His broken leg amid an ongoing flap with the Seattle Seahawks illustrates why the lack of guaranteed contracts is such a problem for NFL players.
This is exactly what Thomas was worried about when he sat out training camp. And when he skipped practices after the season started.
There are, of course, all manner of injuries in each and every game, each and every week, around the violent-by-design league.
Often, they involve stars — such as Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left New England’s 38-7 win over Miami with an injured right ankle. Often, they are gruesome — such as what happened to Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert’s lower right leg in Cincinnati’s 37-36 victory at Atlanta, leaving him covering his face with interlocking fingers as he was driven to the locker room.
So this given Sunday was no different from any other, really. Thomas’ particular case, though, seemed to resonate — yes, because of his flipping reaction, but also — because he has been so public about his concerns about health and finances.
He’s in the final year of his deal and repeatedly has spoken about wanting the extra security of a fresh contract.
“I need to make sure my body is 100 (percent),” Thomas said a week ago, “and I’m invested in myself.”
Prescient sentiment. In the fourth quarter of Seattle’s 20-17 victory at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Thomas’s left leg was fractured while he tried to defend against what became a 22-yard touchdown pass. As the six-time Pro Bowl safety was driven away on a cart along Arizona’s sideline, his leg in an air cast, he looked across the field, lifted his right hand and made his anger clear.
It elicited a ton of reaction on Twitter, including this nugget from Thomas’ former Seahawks teammate Cliff Avril: “Exactly why guys want extensions.”
In case you missed it, here are other top topics after the NFL season’s fourth Sunday:
ROUGHING THE PASSER
Yes, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was credited with half a sack while helping take down Bills QB Josh Allen in the second quarter as Green Bay beat Buffalo 22-0 . And, lo and behold, Matthews did not get flagged for roughing the passer — the first game this season that he did not get whistled for it. All in all, the uproar caused by the focus on that particular penalty seemed to have an effect, because after an average of more than 10 roughing calls per week through Week 3, there were only five entering the Monday night game. Then again, one of Sunday’s was pretty hard to believe: when Oakland’s Arden Key barely touched Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield.
NOT TAKING A KNEE
Hey, maybe Jaguars coach Doug Marrone was worried that the Jets would return a kickoff for a touchdown, then line up and go for 14? Hard to figure out what else would motivate him to go for a 2-point conversion after a TD put his team ahead 31-12 with 25 seconds left — unless, of course, Marrone just wanted to rub it in a bit against a club that passed him over for its top job. Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams called it “really disrespectful.” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson’s take? “He doesn’t like those guys. I don’t know what they did to him, but he doesn’t like them.” And Marrone’s explanation? “On the chart,” he said, “it says go for two.”
Don’t bother with a running game, they say. Never draft a tailback too high, they insist. Maybe they’re right, but there is a young crop of runners who are looking fantastic right now. There’s second-year back Alvin Kamara, who scored three second-half TDs and finished with 134 yards on the ground in the Saints’ 33-18 victory at the New York Giants, whose rookie Saquon Barkley looks pretty talented, too. Rookie Sony Michel ran for 112 yards and his first NFL TD for the Patriots, while his college teammate at Georgia, Nick Chubb, needed all of three carries to gain 105 yards and score twice for Cleveland in its 45-42 OT loss at Oakland. Yet another rookie, Kerryon Johnson, bulled through defenders while producing 55 yards and a TD for Detroit, which was beaten 26-24 by Dallas.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report.
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