With the status of Ravens safety Earl Thomas uncertain after Friday’s altercation and his Saturday absence being an “organizational decision,” I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Some quickly dismissed this as a typical summer fight, but it’s the first time in the 12 training camps I’ve covered in which two players on the same side of the ball got into such an altercation in plain sight of media. The decision to send Thomas home reflects that.
2. Despite entering just his fourth season, Chuck Clark is one of the most respected players in the locker room and is known for a calm demeanor. I’d have a hard time believing his frustration was solely about Thomas’ busted coverage on the play immediately preceding the fight.
3. It’s understandable wanting to defend himself, but Thomas posting a since-deleted practice clip on Instagram wasn’t the way to go about it, especially when it showed Clark throwing his helmet without any acknowledgement of the former then allegedly taking a swing at him.
4. Not everyone on even the best teams will love each other, but the mercurial Thomas having high-profile run-ins with Clark and Brandon Williams last September is difficult to dismiss. Not having trust with prominent teammates and coaches is tough to rehabilitate.
5. Thomas was still good in his first year in Baltimore, but he admitted there being a learning curve grasping Wink Martindale’s defense and old habits to freelance like he did in Seattle are apparently tough to break. Discipline is a must for a system built on deception and positional flexibility.
6. Even if Thomas isn’t the dominant safety he once was, the Ravens’ current top reserve is a former sixth-round pick who’s played 40 defensive snaps in six career games. DeShon Elliott shows promise if he can stay healthy, but a committed Thomas is superior to other options on the roster.
7. Releasing him would result in $15 million in dead money on this year’s salary cap and $10 million next year, but the Ravens owe him $10 million in guaranteed cash this year. That’s why a trade — even for something inconsequential — makes more sense if this partnership isn’t salvageable.
8. Even with The Athletic reporting missed meetings and unexcused absences, going down the “conduct detrimental” path can be a slippery slope sure to be challenged with players and agents around the league paying close attention. You sometimes just have to take a financial hit to remedy a problem.
9. Whatever the outcome, you’d assume the Ravens want to have this resolved quickly with Week 1 only three weeks away. There are already enough challenges trying to navigate their way through a pandemic and abbreviated summer without this saga hanging over the team.
10. Thomas has had a Hall of Fame career making the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight healthy seasons — he finished two other years on injured reserve — but ugly exits from what many consider to be two of the NFL’s model organizations wouldn’t look great for his legacy.
11. This example is why I bristle at arguments that teams with good cultures can “control” a problematic figure. That doesn’t mean you should always shy away from anyone questionable, but these are grown men who make their own choices. Strong culture is recognizing good fits more than “babysitting” bad ones.
12. You’d still like to see cooler heads prevail if possible. Team chemistry cannot be ignored and the Ravens remain a serious Super Bowl contender without him, but they’re better with Thomas on the field. Conversely, he’s not going to find a better situation to win another Super Bowl.