“At this point, I don’t care if they move me to kicker,” Thomas said today. “I just want to play football.”
Thomas’ eagerness is understandable. He has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 2, 2011, the final game of the 2010 season. Thomas missed the entire 2011 and 2012 seasons after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament.
But he will have an opportunity to return to the field in 2012. The Giants announced today that Thomas has signed a new contract for the upcoming season.
“I’m blessed and happy to have another opportunity to play football, especially with such a loyal organization, the one I started my career with,” Thomas said. “For them to give me another opportunity to prove myself, I feel very blessed.”
Thomas underwent his third ACL surgery last September (he had his first at USC in 2005). The operation was performed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Thomas is currently in the midst of a two-month rehabilitation and workout regimen at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine near Pensacola, Fla. Among the other NFL players also working there is Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“My knee feels great,” Thomas said. “It was a little struggle at first. It was a little inconsistent with the swelling. But for the last month-and-a half I haven’t dealt with any swelling at all. It’s progressed the last two weeks since I started running. The doctors are really happy with the way I’m progressing. They had to increase my workload because it wasn’t enough.”
Thomas tore his ACL in a preseason game against Chicago on Aug. 22, 2011. Following surgery, he spent the season rehabbing and returned to the field at the starting of the Giants’ 2012 training camp. On July 29, Thomas suffered what the Giants described as a “re-injury” to his twice surgically-repaired right anterior cruciate ligament. Thomas expressed hope that he would soon return to the field. But it was not to be and Thomas was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 31. He soon had another operation.
Will he be able to step back onto a football field without thinking about a knee that was surgically-repaired each of the last two years?
“I can’t speak on that right now,” Thomas said. “But I imagine I will be a little hesitant at first. But that’s what practice is for. Hopefully, they’ll give me enough opportunities to get out there and practice and get my knee in shape to feel confidence and trust in it. Last year, I definitely felt confident in my knee. What happened, I couldn’t tell you to this day. It just wasn’t meant to be. But I definitely did everything possible to get ready and that’s my game plan again. I can’t worry about what I can’t do. All I can worry about is what I can do right now, and that’s rehab. And that’s what I plan on focusing on.”
Before his injuries, Thomas was considered one of the Giants’ best young players. A second-round draft choice in 2008, Thomas started every game in 2009 and 2010 and led the Giants in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed each season. When the Giants reported to training camp in 2011,
“It’s been a long two years,” Thomas said. “It’s definitely been a test of my will. But it’s made me a stronger person. It showed me a lot of things about myself that I needed to fix and at the same time it showed me how strong I was. It’s been a tough time for me and my family and especially beating myself up. But God has seen me through. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I believe there’s a bigger plan for me. I’m hoping He will show me and I’m riding it out right now.
“I’m on a real high right now. Since I moved to Pensacola to train I’ve been a whole lot better mentally and physically. I’m real happy right now re-signing with the Giants and getting a chance to be with my teammates and get another opportunity to play football again. It’s been two years – it’s been a very long time. I’m excited to get ready for offseason training to be with the guys in the film room, the meetings - all that stuff I missed.”
Thomas is open to the idea of changing positions, though kicker does seem out of the question. There has been speculation that perhaps safety would be less taxing than cornerback on his knee.
“Obviously, my physical play translates into being a safety,” Thomas said. “I just got done talking to (general manager) Jerry (Reese), coach (Tom) Coughlin and coach (Perry) Fewell (the defensive coordinator) and all of them said, ‘We envision you coming back to play corner. If you can play corner, that’s great. But if not, maybe there’s a nickel safety role. Either way, we just want you on the field.’ Whatever my leg allows me to do, whatever the coach sees fit is better for the team, that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be ready, regardless.”