GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Earl Thomas' season and potentially his career with the Seattle Seahawks might be over after the All-Pro safety broke his leg Sunday in the team's 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Coach Pete Carroll called Thomas' injury a lower leg fracture and said Thomas believes it's similar to the season-ending injury he suffered to the same leg in December 2016. While Carroll didn't give a timetable for a return, he and several of Thomas' teammates talked as though this injury also will be season-ending.
Thomas, who held out all offseason in protest of his contract situation and returned without a new deal, was carted off the field with his leg in an air cast midway through the third quarter. He gave the middle finger to what appeared to be the direction of Seattle's sideline as he was being taken into the locker room.
"I don't know anything about that," Carroll said when asked about the gesture. "It's a big stadium. I don't know where it was aimed at. Earl was extraordinarily poised on the field. For what just occurred to be so clear and so resolved to -- he knew what happened. But he was so poised and giving back to the players and all of us. So I don't know what happened after that."
Thomas was not available to the media after the game.
The Seahawks (2-2) also might have lost rookie tight end Will Dissly. He was carted off Sunday and didn't return after suffering what Carroll called a patellar injury in the first quarter.
The Seahawks won on a 52-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal as time expired, but Carroll repeatedly called the victory "bittersweet" because of those injuries.
The All-Pro Thomas was hurt on the play that resulted in Arizona's game-tying touchdown from Josh Rosen to receiver Chad Williams. Several Seahawks teammates knelt around him while holding hands as members of the team's medical staff tended to Thomas. A few Cardinals players, including Larry Fitzgerald, came over to offer their support, as well.
Strong safety Bradley McDougald called it "very difficult" and a "very emotional moment."
"We personally know the time these players put into it," he said, referring to Thomas and Dissly, "and to see their seasons get ended short like that, it's just heartbreak because I know how bad they wanted it. So I think it's our job to go out there and finish the job that they started."
Thomas was replaced at free safety by second-year pro Tedric Thompson, whom Seattle had prepared to start while Thomas was holding out.
Thomas' future with the team was in question all offseason and has continued to be since he returned on the Wednesday before Seattle's opener. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Seahawks had still been open to trading Thomas, but that they had refused to budge on their asking price of a 2019 second-round pick.
Thomas has voiced his displeasure over his contract, which is in its final year and includes an $8.5 million salary. Thomas said upon his return that he determined that he had too much money to lose -- $500,000 in weekly game checks -- if he were to continue his holdout into the regular season.
"I think that's the crazy part of our business. If he doesn't come, then he's not a team player," linebacker Bobby Wagner said, referring to what perceptions would have been about Thomas had he continued to hold out. "If he does come and he gets hurt, then it's, 'He shouldn't have come.' So it's a position that we get put in often and it's an unfortunate situation."
Wagner's comment drew a response from another star player who has been absent due to an ongoing contract dispute. Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who hasn't reported to the team this season, replied to a post on Instagram that featured Wagner's quote by writing: "smh exactly...get right bro bro @earl! I'll continue to be the bad guy for ALL of us."
After intercepting his second and third passes of the season in Seattle's win over the Dallas Cowboys last week, Thomas told reporters that he had sat out practice the week before in an attempt to protect himself as he continues to seek a new deal. Thomas' absences in practice the Wednesday and Friday of that week were listed as non-injury related.
"I need to make sure my body is 100 [percent]," Thomas said after the win over Dallas. "I'm invested in myself. If they was invested in me, I would be out there practicing. But if I feel like anything -- I don't give a damn if it's small, I've got a headache -- I'm not practicing. But I don't want that to be taken the wrong way. I know I'm going to get fined. But that's just where I'm at with that."
But Carroll said this week that the Seahawks and Thomas were in a "good place" and that he wasn't concerned about any more drama with the safety. The coach reiterated that after Sunday's win.
"That's why it's so bittersweet," Carroll said. "We had just turned things around and everything was going in a really positive direction and all of that, so it breaks my heart that we're talking about this right now."
The injury to Thomas came in the same building where Seattle has experienced plenty of misfortune of late, even though they're now 5-0-1 in regular-season games there since 2013. The Cardinals' home stadium -- now called State Farm Stadium -- is where the Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX and also where Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor suffered serious injuries last season. Chancellor's injury will apparently prevent him from playing again, while Sherman's effectively ended his career in Seattle.
When asked if he thinks this will be Thomas' last game with the Seahawks, Carroll said, "I don't know. I hope not. I'm not counting on that. I hope not. One thing he does know, he knows how to deal with this. He got through it and he came back unbelievably good."
Wagner said he didn't think anything of Thomas' gesture and referenced how his teammate floated the idea of retirement after his 2016 broken leg while making the point that players sometimes act emotionally.
"I think we play a very, very emotional game, and I think sometimes you've got to allow people to have their emotions, have their feelings," Wagner said. "Last time he got hurt like this, he retired, and obviously he didn't retire. So you've got to let guys have their emotions. I don't think nothing of it. I think he has a long road ahead of him if it's the injury that he suspects. We're going to have his back and we're going to support him and we're going to be here for him."
Added defensive end Frank Clark: "At the end of the day, that's why you ask for certain things. Earl wanted an extension and stuff like that, and at the end of the day he didn't get that. It sucks. It sucks to see a guy who, like I said, puts his all into his team and he doesn't get what he deserves. I feel like at the end of the day, we've got to pick up the slack. Earl's going to be OK eventually. We've got other guys who can fill in that position and do the best they can. We're going to just keep on going, keep the show going."
But Clark also described Thomas as irreplaceable.
"Yeah, we got the W," he said, "but I feel like we was the losers at the end of the day because we lost a Hall of Fame player, we lost a player who you can't replace."