By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Earl Thomas isn’t the same man as he was two weeks ago, and he isn’t afraid to acknowledge it.
The safety suffered a dislocated shoulder in the second quarter of Seattle’s NFC Championship victory over the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 18, forcing him into the locker room before coming back to play the rest of the game. Almost immediately upon returning, Thomas made a tackle on bruising running back Eddie Lacy, proving a dislocation wouldn’t keep him from still using his physical capabilities.
One would be hard-pressed to find a player who isn’t willing to sacrifice much in order to play in the biggest game of his career. Thomas is no different, even if he’s admittedly not at 100 percent.
“When I come alive nothing is limited,” Thomas said, via The Seattle Times. “I’ll still play fearless, throw my body around, and let whatever happens, happens.”
Throwing his body around will likely include using that injured shoulder for high-speed impact, because it is both a product of the speed of the game and also a hallmark of the playing style of Thomas and Seattle’s secondary as a whole.
Players make a living playing through injuries — fellow defensive back Richard Sherman will also be at less than 100 percent after spraining his elbow in the win over the Packers — but Thomas’ shoulder ailment should be of concern to those supporting the Seahawks because of the hard-hitting nature of the safety’s play. The Seattle secondary isn’t nicknamed the Legion of Bump, and is respected by opponents because of its bruising, intimidating style.
Thomas and fellow safety Kam Chancellor are the two lowering the boom most often in the secondary. This includes stepping up to help stop the run, something LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots showed they are very well capable of imposing upon opponents.
Blount, another big back, will meet Thomas at one point during Super Bowl XLIX. How Thomas adjusts his approach could be telling for the outcome of the game, saying Sunday that “with me with this shoulder I better have a tackling plan.”
No more than Sunday will Thomas have to rely on his teammates, as the 11-man unit collectively attempts to stifle Tom Brady and New England’s offense, a unit that put up 45 points on the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.