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September 10, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Seahawks press conference news and notes — Bryan Walters to take over punt return duties, Carroll on Ray Rice situation, and more

Pete Carroll’s weekly Wednesday press conference has concluded, and it yielded one piece of fairly significant news as the coach said Earl Thomas will no longer be the primary punt returner, with Bryan Walters taking over those duties.

Carroll said it was not due to any concern of Thomas’ health, but rather that he wanted to relieve Thomas of the responsibility of the job, feeling he was spending a lot of time focusing on it to the possible detriment of the rest of his game.

“I think  that the focus from Earl 0n the punt thing is so much because he wants to do so well that I would  like to take that off of him,” Carroll said. “He is still going to be available for us on punt returns and we will use him when we need him. But we will use Bryan Walters back there and mix our guys as we go. I just noticed in the game that he wants to do so well that his focus was challenged and I would rather have his focus playing at safety. So after the long experiment and the time that we spent doing this, he’s not doing it.”

Carroll said he talked to Thomas on Tuesday night to tell him of his decision.

“He understands,” Carroll said. “He sees it. He has such tremendous pride in his position and what he brings to the defense and what it takes to get that focus, he sensed it also. So we really just talked it through and it made sense to him, too and he actually had the same thought the night before when I talked to him. So it was really, this is an opportunity for him to really focus where we need him the most.

“. … The thing I love about Earl is he wants to do it so badly, and that’s such an important factor for the punt returns that they want to really get out there and go do it. Bryan Walters has had a tremendous background in catching punts. He has great hands and great decision-making, so as far as I am concerned, we are getting an excellent situation guy for us. And Doug (Baldwin) will be back there, too. So we are in good shape numbers-wise and I think it will fit a little bit better.”

Carroll reiterated that any concern over Thomas getting hurt was not a factor.

“It’s really about his focus,” he said. “It’s just so much. He is going to give you everything he’s got and he hasn’t had to do that (punt return) for these (first years of hiss career). …  I don’t think he needs that as I’ve watched it come about. It took a while — we didn’t get him enough returns in the pre-season, we didn’t give him enough of a chance to really see him. So it just took a little bit longer to figure it out.”

Walters said he was informed of his new job during the walk-through Wednesday morning.

Just 10 days ago, Walters was unsure where he would be playing this season.  Now he has a chance to really take a job and run with it.

“I’m just going to be me back there,” he said. “And not try to do anything uncharacteristic and just go back there and just play  my role for the team.”

Here are a bunch of other notes:

— Carroll said the Ray Rice situation will change the way the team evaluates players. The Seahawks last spring signed A.J. Jefferson who had a previous domestic violence charge. Carroll implied the team would act differently now.

“It will never be the same,” said Carroll, said when asked if the episode would change how he evaluated players. “Unfortunately, I’ve got to admit, my awareness is different than it was, and I don’t think it’ll ever be the same as it was. I’m glad that I can say that now, because hopefully we can prevent or head off any kind of issue that could come up in the future. Unfortunately we had to see an incident that elevated our awareness to really get it to the right place. It’s unfortunate we have to learn the hard way sometimes.”

Carroll also said he thought the NFL had “got it right” in terms of the action it took against Rice. ”

“It’s an extremely serious situation,” Carroll said. “I think they’ve got it right. It took time to get it right but they’ve got it right … it took more time than some people’s patience, but we understand why.”

— Carroll said Marcus Burley will be the primary nickel going forward with Josh Thomas playing primarily outside. Talked to Burley in the locker room and he said he is excited for the opportunity and knows he may get targeted but is ready for the challenge.

— Carroll said RB Christine Michael had a good workout on Tuesday and will take today off and then they will see on Thursday if he is ready to practice. If all goes well, he could be ready to return this week from the hamstring injury that kept him out the last two games. If not, he should be ready for the Denver game.

— Carroll said Bruce Irvin seems to moving even better now that he is recovered from hip surgery, saying “I can’t remember when he’s felt this freed up.” Irvin agreed that the hip had been a problem for a while, but specifically dating back to the mock game last year when he hurt it while chasing Brady Quinn.

— Irvin had a humorous response to the news that San Diego center Nick Hardwick is out for the season.  Last week, Irvin had said he would “pray” for Green Bay rookie center Corey Linsley, who had to go up against Brandon Mebane. Asked if he would pray for San Diego backup Rich Ohrnberger, Irvin smiled and said “I got nothing to say about that.” Asked if that meant he wouldn’t pray for Ohrnberger, he said “I pray for everybody. Just some people a little more.”

— Asked if there would be a chance Richard Sherman would ever not play simply on the left side, Carroll smiled and said “maybe if you guys (the media) push me.”

— He said newly-acquired OL Andrew McDonald will be used at both right and left tackle and had a good practice on Monday. “We’re really excited about his first day,” Carroll said.

Here is some video of the first few minutes of what Carroll had to say today:

[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”3778352766001″/]



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