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From middle finger to the punch: Earl Thomas’ tumultuous timeline

Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas was released by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, marking the second time in two years his stint with an NFL team ended in controversy.

Here is Thomas’ tumultuous two-year timeline:

Sept. 30, 2018: The last image of Thomas in a Seattle Seahawks uniform was him extending his right middle finger toward Seahawks coach Peter Carroll. In a Week 4 game at Arizona, Thomas flashed the gesture while leaving the field on an injury cart, with his broken left leg in an air cast. Thomas later said he didn’t regret that action because he didn’t think Carroll was being genuine when he showed concern on the field after the injury.

March 12, 2019: On the first day teams could contact free agents, Thomas reached a verbal agreement on a one-year, $12 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Thomas and his family packed their bags to fly to Kansas City the next morning.

March 13, 2019: Just as the Chiefs were about to send a private jet for Thomas, Baltimore swooped in by significantly outbidding Kansas City. The Ravens offered a four-year, $55 million contract that included $32 million in guaranteed money, the largest given to a non-quarterback in franchise history. “I definitely took that offer real quick,” Thomas said.

March 15, 2019: Along with running back Mark Ingram, Thomas was introduced at a news conference in Baltimore. “I’m taking it as a second opportunity,” Thomas said. “I’m taking it as a refreshing start.”

June 13, 2019: During spring workouts, Thomas acknowledged the Ravens’ defense was complex compared to the one run in Seattle. Instead of playing Cover 3 exclusively like he did with the Seahawks, Thomas was trying to adjust to a Ravens scheme that makes calls on the fly. “I haven’t really enjoyed it that much, to be totally honest,” he said. “But I know it’s going to pay off, because we’re going to make it very hard on quarterbacks.”

July 24, 2019: In an ESPN interview, Thomas stood by flipping the middle finger to Carroll. “I don’t regret my decision,” Thomas said. “If my teammates felt like it was toward them, I regret that part. But I don’t regret doing that to Pete.”

July 31, 2019: Thomas made his first interception of training camp, returning a Lamar Jackson pass for a touchdown. After he scored, Thomas went over to the bleachers and held his arms out wide.

Sept. 8, 2019: On his first defensive series with the Ravens, Thomas picked off an overthrown pass by Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and returned the interception into Dolphins territory. Soon afterward, a Ravens assistant shouted into the headset, “That’s Earl Thomas. We got Earl Thomas.” Thomas made one more interception the rest of the season.

Sept. 18, 2019: Leading up to the Ravens’ game in Kansas City, Thomas boasted, “Luckily the Ravens have me playing free safety, controlling the deep end. I plan on eliminating all the big plays.” Four days later, Baltimore experienced multiple broken coverages as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs totaled 503 yards, the most allowed by the Ravens in nearly two years.

Sept. 29, 2019: Down by six points in the fourth quarter to the Browns, Thomas gave up chasing running back Nick Chubb on an 88-yard touchdown. Thomas slowed up around midfield. He later explained he didn’t want to pull a hamstring. After the game, Thomas confronted nose tackle Brandon Williams in the training room for not suiting up for the game. The argument didn’t get physical because players and staff members quickly stepped in.

Oct. 3, 2019: Thomas said he was “on the same page” with Williams. “We talked about it,” Thomas said. “I just want him out there. He’s a Pro Bowler. We’re better when he’s out there. I was a little frustrated.”

Oct. 11, 2019: Thomas was fined $21,000 by the NFL for his hit on Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Thomas’ helmet connected on Rudolph’s chin and knocked him out. Thomas reached out to Randolph with a text message but got no response. “I wanted him to know that I didn’t do it on purpose,” Thomas said. “That’s all I wanted him to know.”

Oct. 20, 2019: In his first game back in Seattle, Thomas reveled in the 30-16 victory, saying, “It’s the best feeling in the world.” During the game, Thomas jawed at the Seahawks sideline after Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown. “You knew I was going to say something,” Thomas said with a smile. “I definitely said what I had to say. It was between me and them.”

Oct. 21, 2019: Thomas didn’t return with the Ravens on the team flight back to Baltimore, a source confirmed. He chose to take the entire bye week off, blowing off meetings Monday and Tuesday, the source added.

Nov. 3, 2019: To help seal a win over the then-undefeated Patriots, Earl Thomas picked off Tom Brady in the fourth quarter. Asked how it felt to intercept the GOAT, Thomas gave this confident response: “It’s not my first time.” It would be Thomas’ last interception as a Raven.

Jan. 7, 2020: Before the playoff game against the Titans, Thomas was asked about facing Derrick Henry after he ran for 182 yards and one touchdown against the Patriots in a wild-card game. “Guys didn’t seem like they was too interested in tackling him,” Thomas said. “I think our mindset is a little different. We’re gonna try to tackle him, try to swarm, and we are going to see how it plays out.”

Jan. 11, 2020: Henry ran for 195 yards in a 28-12 upset win in Baltimore. Thomas got embarrassed on one run in which Henry stiff-armed him twice. “Good to see you, Earl,” Henry told Thomas after that play.

April 13, 2020: Thomas’ wife was arrested in Texas after police said she pointed a loaded gun at her husband’s head during an argument. Nina Thomas was charged with first-degree felony burglary of a residence with intent to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to court documents. Nina Thomas told police she confronted her husband at a rental home because she believed he was cheating on her, according to an arrest warrant. Earl Thomas was not arrested, and news of the incident wasn’t reported until the following month.

May 5, 2020: Earl Thomas indicated in an Instagram video, which he later deleted, that TMZ would be releasing details of the altercation and said he wanted to “get ahead” of the report. “It’s not really anybody’s business,” he said. “It pisses me off that it got out, but it’s the world we live in today. But instead of talking about us, just keep us in y’all’s prayers. Stuff like this happens.” This was the first time the Ravens become aware of the situation. Thomas never notified the team, which learned of the incident from social media.

Aug. 21, 2020: Toward the end of the fourth training camp practice, Thomas decided to blitz and Mark Andrews caught a long touchdown pass in the area where Thomas was supposed to be covering. Chuck Clark ripped off his own helmet and threw it to the ground. Thomas and Clark argued on the sideline, where Thomas punched his fellow safety, according to a source. Coaches and teammates separated them. After practice ended, the Ravens sent Thomas home.

Aug. 22, 2020: Thomas was told to stay home and not report to the facility for practice. Later, Thomas posted a video of the play on social media that showed the busted coverage and Clark throwing his helmet in anger, which made the normally mild-mannered Clark look like the instigator. Thomas wrote: “A mental error on my part. A busted coverage that I tried to explain calmly [met] with built-up aggression turned into me getting into it with a teammate.” Thomas then deleted the video, which could be seen as a violation of team rules. The Ravens prohibit the publishing of videos of team drills.

Aug. 23, 2020: At 12:26 p.m. Sunday, the Ravens announced they were parting ways with Thomas with this 16-word tweet: “We have terminated Earl Thomas’ contract for personal conduct that has adversely affected the Baltimore Ravens.”

Thomas posted on Instagram 21 minutes later: “Had a great run…Wish things would have ended different but you live and you learn.”

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