Veteran safety Earl Thomas suffered a season-ending fractured leg during Sunday's 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, and as he was being carted off the field, he gave the Seahawks sideline the middle finger, a response to the team never giving him the contract extension or trade he requested this offseason.
On Monday, head coach Pete Carroll preached empathy when discussing the incident.
"Give him a little slack," Carroll said, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. "This is a very, very difficult moment that most people would never understand what this is all about."
Thomas, 29, held out the entirety of training camp and the preseason amid a contract dispute with the Seahawks. He was seeking long-term security in the event of an injury like the one he suffered Sunday:
Both his teammates and other players around the NFL expressed support for Thomas.
"I think that's the crazy part of our business. If he doesn't come, then he's not a team player," linebacker Bobby Wagner said, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. "If he does come and he gets hurt, then it's, 'He shouldn't have come.' So it's a position that we get put in often and it's an unfortunate situation."
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who continues to hold out this season, responded to those comments in an Instagram comment, writing: "smh exactly...get right bro bro @earl ! I'll continue to be the bad guy for ALL of us."
"At the end of the day, that's why you ask for certain things. Earl wanted an extension and stuff like that, and at the end of the day he didn't get that," defensive end Frank Clark added. "It sucks. It sucks to see a guy who, like I said, puts his all into his team and he doesn't get what he deserves. I feel like at the end of the day, we've got to pick up the slack."
A number of other players around the league also expressed support:
Wagner also noted that Thomas' heightened emotions in the heat of the moment should be taken into account regarding his gesture toward the sideline.
"I think we play a very, very emotional game, and I think sometimes you've got to allow people to have their emotions, have their feelings" he said. "... I don't think nothing of it. I think he has a long road ahead of him if it's the injury that he suspects. We're going to have his back and we're going to support him and we're going to be here for him."