OWINGS MILLS — From his perch in the secondary, Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas watched as Lamar Jackson handled the snap, dropped back and released the ball in the direction of Seth Roberts, who was streaking towards the back corner of the end zone.
For a few short moments, it looked as if the second-year quarterback had connected with his receiver for an athletic touchdown overtop star defender Marlon Humphrey. Even the crowd, on-hand at the Under Armour Performance Center Thursday for the third day of mandatory minicamp, cheered.
Having inched toward the line of scrimmage hoping to prevent a potential short pass, the safety back pedaled towards the end zone, turned, and arrived just as Roberts shifted to tuck the ball against his body. He delivered the hit, knocking the pass away and sending the ball skidding harmlessly out of bounds.
“Earl is pretty good. Man, he’s a great player,” Jackson gushed afterwards. “Watching his highlights growing up as a kid and stuff like that, and to actually perform against him is tremendous. I can see why he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame.”
It was the type of heads-up play that Thomas, 30, has come to be known for. The veteran safety appears fully recovered from the broken left leg that ended his season last October when he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks and its now-legendary defense nicknamed “Legion of Boom.”
It marked the second time in his career that Thomas suffered a broken left leg, after he endured a similar injury in December 2016. Outside his rookie year, the safety has earned a pro bowl nod in all six seasons he wasn’t hurt, including three first-team All-Pro selections.
“I have my days. But, for the most part, like today, you never want to get off the field when you’re feeling good. I didn’t want to come out. Usually, I’ll take three reps a period, four reps, but I didn’t want to come out today. I felt really good,” said Thomas, who has suited up this offseason with a black brace around his left leg. “I’m just taking it day by day. [Head strength and conditioning coach] Steve [Saunders] and the strength staff is doing a great job with me. [Head certified athletic trainer] Ron [Medlin] and the training room, they’re doing a great job. I feel like I’m in the right spot.
“I’m very confident,” he added. “It’s all about just knowing the defense, understanding my tools and using them.”
Last year’s season-ending injury came during the final year of Thomas’ contract. Hoping for a new deal prior to the campaign, the Seattle opted not to renegotiate a contract extension. Thomas elected to hold out from offseason activities, including training camp and preseason, eventually reporting to the Seahawks in time for the start of the regular season.
Thomas was later fined by the NFL for an obscene gesture he made toward his own sideline as he was carted off the field following the broken leg.
The Ravens signed Thomas to a four-year, $55 million deal during free agency.
“He has looked determined. He looks like he understands the defense. He looks crisp and sharp. He has been moving really well. He looks really good to me,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m really excited about him.”
Now in his 10th season, Thomas joins a Ravens defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL a year ago. He will captain a secondary that released Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle in the offseason, but otherwise remained unchanged from last fall.
“I’m not that intense, like everybody says. I’m not that intense. But, in the locker room, guys … they’re starting to understand me and vice versa,” Thomas said. “These guys … these are my type of guys. This is the locker room that I want to be a part of. God just worked it out for me. The culture is the dog mentality. Those are my type of players.
“I’m very excited,” he continued. “I just want a chance, and I definitely have a chance with this group. [Defensive backs coach] Chris [Hewitt] is doing a great job with us. Even the young guys are showing up. I think we had six turnovers yesterday. Today we did a great job, as well, to end camp.
“I’m just ready to get back with the guys in about five weeks.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig