Tim Booth, AP Sports Writer

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Apparently Earl Thomas’ $40 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks did not mean fewer responsibilities on his plate.

Next up for the All-Pro free safety: punt returning?

Don’t scoff. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday after the first organized team activity of the Seahawks’ offseason program that Thomas would be the first up as punt returner right now. That all could change by the time the Sept. 4 season opener against Green Bay arrives. But for now, the job is Thomas’ to lose.

Related: Seahawks Extend Earl Thomas 

The question of who will return punts after the departure of Golden Tate in free agency is one of the few the Seahawks must answer this offseason. Tate was a standout for Seattle in that role, but he left for bigger money from Detroit during free agency.

Thomas isn’t the only one being considered. Carroll rattled off a list that also included Percy Harvin, Richard Sherman and Bryan Walters. But he was quick to say if the season started now, Thomas would be his choice.

“He’s the guy that has the most catches for us,” Carroll said. “But I’m anxious to see how Bryan Walters fits into that. He’s got experience. Percy is out there vying for it. (Sherman) would tell you he’s the best for it and he catches the ball really well.”

Thomas has not returned a punt in the NFL. The last time he did was during his sophomore year at Texas when he made three punt returns, including a 50-yarder against Kansas. He said it’s an opportunity he’s lobbied for since coming to the Seahawks and is hoping to take advantage since there is a void.

“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting on this opportunity. That’s what I do. I’m an athlete. I’ve been trying to tell coach Carroll to put me back there for the longest (time),” Thomas said. “I always try and go back there during walkthroughs and try and sneak a punt return just to show him who I am. And I want to score a touchdown so this is my perfect opportunity to score a touchdown. I’m an offensive guy at heart. That’s why I don’t go out of bounds when I catch an interception.”


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