USA Today

Pete Carroll knows a thing or two about Earl Thomas, having spent nine years with the Pro Bowl safety in Seattle -- and enduring the veteran's infamous middle-finger salute during a contract dispute between the two sides. Naturally, then, Carroll was asked Monday about Thomas' abrupt release from the Baltimore Ravens, who quickly tired of the safety's abrasiveness on and off the field. But the coach had no criticisms to levy, instead telling reporters he feels sorry for the former Super Bowl champion.

"It's been a tough time for Earl," Carroll said, per The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta. "That's a hard situation. I feel bad for him (and) wish he could have avoided that from happening, whatever that was ... That's a bad state to get in when they send you home."

Carroll, of course, is referencing the Ravens' decision to send Thomas home from training camp on Friday, following a fight between the longtime Seahawk and his then-Ravens teammate Chuck Clark. It's not hard to read between the lines and suggest Carroll's remarks serve as vindication for Seattle's refusal to bow to Thomas' long-term contract demands during the 2018 season, the two sides' last year together. But Thomas has all but done that himself, struggling to live up to expectations for most of his Ravens debut and then watching as more than a year of distracting behavior came to a head this week.

For what it's worth, Carroll hasn't held any of Thomas' actions or words against him before. The latter infamously gave his coach a middle finger while being carted off the field with a season-ending injury in 2018, the same year Thomas and the Seahawks failed to come to terms on a new deal. But Carroll said in 2019, when Thomas played Seattle as a member of the Ravens, that he'll "always be there for him," adding that "my heart's pretty big, pretty wide open to these guys ... (and) I'm going to love them anyway."

As of his first -- and only -- season with the Ravens, Thomas had yet to move on from his sour end in Seattle, which saw the safety rack up seven Pro Bowl honors after drafting him in the first round back in 2010.

"I don't regret my decision," he told ESPN at the time, referencing the gesture to Carroll. "If my teammates felt like it was towards them, then I regret that part, but I don't regret doing it to Pete ... Pete and the front office, we just didn't, they didn't value me, I guess, like they used to. And I had just talked to coach Carroll. He was saying how he was trying to get me in their plans, of getting a new contract ... I gave Pete the middle finger because I felt like he wasn't being honest with me."