Thomas may return punts for the Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. -- The $40 million man may be the new punt returner for the Seattle Seahawks.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas will receive serious consideration to take over the role as the team's punt returner.

"If we had to start today, Earl would be the first guy back there," Carroll said Tuesday after the first organized team activity practice.

And Thomas said he wants the job.

"I've been waiting on this opportunity," Thomas said. "I'm an athlete. I've asked Coach Carroll to put me back there for the longest time. I just want to show them who I am. This is my perfect opportunity to score touchdowns. I'm an offensive guy at heart. That's why I don't run out of bounds when I catch interceptions."

Thomas signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension last month, making him the highest paid safety in the NFL. Obviously, Thomas was a huge factor in helping make the Seahawks the best defense in the NFL last season, but Carroll said he would have no hesitation in using Thomas as the team's punt returner.

The job is up from grads after losing wide receiver Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions in free agency. Carroll said Thomas is option No. 1 right now, but a few other players will get a look at taking the job, including receiver Percy Harvin.

"Coach Carroll asked me about it a couple of weeks ago," Harvin said. "I'm just practicing at it right now. I'm hoping once I get comfortable with it, maybe by preseason, I'll get a little action back there.

"I've always been a [kickoff] returner because every team I've been on had a pretty good punt returner. It's completely different [than kick returning]. The ball falls differently and it hangs different in the air, but I'm going to work at it."

Carroll also listed receiver Bryan Walters and cornerback Richard Sherman as possible punt-return options.

"Sherm will tell you he's the best one," Carroll said. "He catches the ball really well."

Thomas said he did some punt returning at the University of Texas.

"My first one [at Texas] I almost scored a touchdown," Thomas said. "But I got tripped up by the punter."

Some people might think it isn't worth the risk to have Seattle's star defensive player return punts.

"I don't care what they think if it's a way for me to help this team," Thomas said. "And I know I can. I want to be able to impact the game as much as possible. It's a great opportunity for me to do that and I just need to capitalize on it."