Pete Carroll: 'Long experiment' of using Earl Thomas to return punts is over

RENTON -- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Bryan Walters will take over the punt-return duties from All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.

Thomas returned punts in the first regular-season game against Green Bay.

“I just noticed in the game that he wants to do so well that his focus is challenged,” Carroll told reporters. “And I’d rather have his focus playing at safety. So after the long experiment and the time that we spent doing it, he’s not doing it."

Carroll said Thomas "understands. He sees it. He has such tremendous pride in his position and what he brings to the defense and what it takes to get that focus, he sensed it, also. So we really just talked it through and it made sense to him, too.

“He’s going to still be available for us on punt returns, and we’ll use him when we need him, but we’ll use Bryan Walters back there and mix guys as we go.”

Carroll's initial decision to use Thomas as a punt returner was questioned by media and fans because it appeared to be putting the starting safety -- a linchpin in the team's Legion of Boom -- at added risk of injury.'s Clare Farnsworth wrote that All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman made a crack about it after Carroll's news conference Wednesday.

“It was a bunch of people killing Pete for putting him back there,” Sherman said.  “Now everybody is like, ‘Oh my God, you’re taking him from back there. What are you doing?’ He’s the best safety in the league. Pick your poison.”