James Thrash is a survivor.
The Washington Redskins didn’t re-sign receivers like Reche Caldwell in the offseason. Others, such as Brandon Lloyd, were cut. Rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have struggled with injuries.
But the 33-year-old Thrash hasn’t missed a day of practice since minicamp began and is in line to be the team’s No. 3 receiver behind Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.
“You mean Mr. Consistency?” receivers coach Stan Hixon said.
“You’re always going to get an honest day’s work from James. He’s one of those guys in the background that you don’t think about. You want to get one faster, one this or one that, but James always seems to show up. He’s one of the players that gets it. A lot of guys don’t. Some guys play for four years and should have played for 12. Some guys play for 12 when they probably should have played four.
“James just keeps on playing. He makes plays.”
As Thrash showed when he finished Wednesday’s by outjumping Chris Horton and Patrick Ghee - who were 12 and 13 years old when he broke in with the Redskins in 1997 - in the end zone to catch a touchdown pass.
Or take Nov. 11 against Philadelphia. Thrash had caught just three passes in the first eight games before he started in place of the injured Randle El. Thrash had five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns, the first two by a Redskins wideout all year.
He missed the next four weeks with a high ankle sprain and caught just one pass the rest of the season, but he didn’t flinch when the Redskins drafted Thomas and Kelly.
“I don’t really look at the competition,” Thrash said. “I challenge myself to outwork myself every offseason from the year before. I’m a little more wise in how I train. I just go hard every single play, every single practice to try to make the team. For me, every day is a job interview, even more so this year with so many new coaches. I’ve got to put my best out there every day so the coaches say, ‘Hey, this guy can play.’”
Thrash is no longer the speedster who made the Redskins as a rookie free agent from Missouri Southern. He’s also not the receiver who caught 115 passes with 14 touchdowns as a starter for the Eagles in 2001 and 2002.
But Thrash remains a reliable backup receiver and special teams contributor.
“James is the best-ever person to have on your team,” special teams coach Danny Smith said. “He understands his role. He’s so steady. He’s always in great shape. He’s so conscientious, pays so much attention to the details. He even led our team chapel [before the Hall of Fame game]. If something happens, it’s easy to say, ‘Go to Thrash.’”
Thrash has become a leader on and off the field.
“What James does for the Redskins is bigger than my job,” Santana Moss said. “You respect a guy like James because of the way he carries himself on and off the field.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell respected Thrash so much he asked him to serve on his inaugural players advisory committee last year.
“I’m very surprised that I’ve played this long,” Thrash said. “If you had asked me in ‘97, I would have said playing four or five years would be awesome. I hope I’m not just hanging around being a sandbag. As a young guy, you’re concerned about what you need to do, what you need to learn.
“As you get older, you realize it’s not all about yourself. You take ownership of being a leader. You can give encouragement to others, impart some wisdom.”
New Redskins coach Jim Zorn realized that quickly.
“James doesn’t make mistakes,” Zorn said. “He’s able to help get guys lined up. He goes full speed on every play. He reminds me of Bobby Engram in Seattle. When we got him from Chicago, [people said] he didn’t have enough speed. He was so small. Bobby caught 94 passes last year. James isn’t just trying to make the team. He’ll try to be great.”
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