- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

Washington Redskins receiver James Thrash can't touch the ball enough against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. In just his fourth career start, Thrash will play receiver, return kickoffs and even return some punts.
Thrash won't have to play on the punt coverage team or hawk sodas in the stands, but for someone waiting patiently since shocking Redskins fans with touchdown kickoff returns in his first two preseason games in 1997, there's no overworking someone who has become a legend in the weight room.
"Young guys it takes a little bit longer [to develop], but you know nobody's ever going to outwork him," coach Norv Turner said. "If James feels there's a chance for him to go do it, he'll put all the effort into it and those guys end up having success."
You won't see Thrash shouting at passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie on the sideline. Indeed, he rarely says much. It's old-fashioned hard work, discipline and plain luck that has elevated Thrash from a onetime training camp long shot to regular. Comic strip-coach Gil Thorpe would love Thrash.
Thrash was already the kickoff returner after three seasons of blocking for Brian Mitchell until late last season. Mitchell's worst season in 10 years allowed Thrash to return 14 kickoffs. Averaging 25.4 yards, with a 95-yard touchdown at Detroit, earned Thrash the job this season as part of the reasoning not to retain Mitchell.
Thrash was troubled by dropping passes, though. Despite promising speed that could have made him the deep threat, Thrash was practically shelved last season with just three catches. However, he equaled that in the season-opening 20-17 victory over Carolina on Sept. 3.
Still, Thrash was the fourth receiver before Michael Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury against Detroit on Sept. 10. However, Thrash's three receptions in the first half of the 17-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday even caught the attention of receiver Albert Connell, who began lobbying Robiskie for more passes after catching only one himself. Connell and Robiskie nearly came to blows over Thrash's production. Connell finished with six catches while Thrash grabbed a career-high five, along with a 34-yard run.
With receiver Irving Fryar suffering bruised nerves in his neck against the Eagles, Thrash will now start for at least the next two games, with Andre Reed becoming the third receiver and Derrius Thompson activated for the fourth slot. Thrash seems to have finally blended his speed and experience to become a medium-range playmaker.
"James is the way a lot of guys should develop," Turner said. "He has learned his craft watching experienced guys, playing in bits and pieces. Two years ago, he separated his shoulder [to miss the final four games] or would have burst on the scene then."
Thrash's only previous start, aside form two games when he simply played the first snap, was a last-minute promotion against Seattle in 1998 when Westbrook was benched for violating team rules. It has often been the defining moment of Thrash's career despite the unfair premise of starting him simply to spite Westbrook. Thrash didn't catch a pass in the first quarter, when two of four intended passes were uncatchable and two others were dropped.
"I'm 10 times more [ready]," he said. "In Seattle, I wasn't even sure if I belonged here. I know the plays better. I'm more comfortable to just go out there and make plays. I'm more mature and a better receiver than back then."
Despite the two-year gap between starts, Thrash knew he would eventually start despite being a onetime undrafted rookie free agent from Missouri Southern who signed with Washington on the eve of the 1997 camp after being cut by Philadelphia. That's why he spent the past offseason catching passes from Robiskie to improve his route running.
"I was very patient and knew I would get my chance," Thrash said. "I'm more confident with my skills. I worked more on my route running and learning the plays in the offseason and that has a big impact on my play. Norv told me I would be out there more. I knew we would go a lot of four wides and get an opportunity to catch the ball."

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