- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

Jon Jansen has seen first-hand the havoc teammate Randy Thomas can wreak.

And Thomas isn’t bad on the football field, either.

Seriously, where the Washington Redskins’ starting right guard perhaps is most impressive — if not borderline crazy — is at the dinner table.

“One night we took the offensive line out for some ribs in Leesburg, and I’ve never seen a guy eat as much as he can and not gain weight,” Jansen said yesterday with wide eyes. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how he breathes. He just shovels it in.”

Whether downing ribs in Northern Virginia, terrorizing a $5.99 Chinese food buffet on Long Island or making history at Lawry’s steakhouse in Dallas — he consumed nine prime ribs in the annual eat-off before the 1999 Cotton Bowl — Thomas always has stood out in the culinary arena.

Now he’s progressing toward similar distinction in the NFL. Although quarterback Patrick Ramsey’s 26 sacks have brought mostly negative attention to the offensive line, Thomas quietly is living up to the seven-year, $28 million contract he signed to jump from the New York Jets to the Redskins in the offseason.

In reality, Washington’s line hasn’t been as bad as advertised, especially over the past month. In particular, Thomas has stood out. With consistent blocking and, more impressive, terrific agility that frequently has him out in front of screen passes or sealing off the edge, Thomas could reach his first Pro Bowl.

“On a scale of one to 10, I’d probably rate him a 10,” Jansen said. “I really would. It’s been great to have a guy like that to play next to. I had a guy in Tre [Johnson] my rookie year [1999, when Johnson made the Pro Bowl], that year he played as a 10. I don’t have to worry anything about the guard position, because he’s got it locked down.”

As Thomas’ renown as a blocker has increased, so have discussions of the Pro Bowl. But the 6-foot-5, 306-pound Mississippi State product didn’t get an invitation in his four seasons as a Jet, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the negative national publicity of the Redskins and their line kept him from going to Hawaii this February.

Thomas, for his part, wouldn’t be too bothered.

“People ask me that, and I always say that I’d rather win games than get personal goals,” Thomas said. “All my joy is about winning. Of course you get recognized for the Pro Bowl, but it’s no big deal. Being on a winning team; that’s my big goal.”

Thomas and Jansen have established quick chemistry on the line’s right side, which makes them optimistic about what they — both are 27, born nine days apart in January 1976 — might accomplish over time.

“As far as chemistry with a guy, this is probably the best I’ve had,” Thomas said. “I’ve had some good guys on my side, but this guy’s got the knowledge, he’s got the technique, and he’s underrated also. Things happen for a reason. I think I was meant to be next to Jansen in my career.”

Offensive line coach Kim Helton notes Thomas’ hustle in Sunday’s fumble recovery in the end zone, which followed Laveranues Coles’ strip of Seattle’s Damien Robinson and ultimately might have saved Washington’s season. And Helton said Thomas is one of the line’s “consistently highest graders.”

“He’s an excellent athlete in space,” Helton said. “He can run on top of corners and DBs and get his hands on them and kick [out] on the screens and reverses. He runs well. His production level has been up there. We’re never going to be satisfied with him, but I hope everybody else can get to where he’s at.”

Of course, if everybody got to where Thomas is at, Jenny Craig stockholders could retire on their earnings. Eating is one of Thomas’ passions; “something I live for,” he said. He’ll spend $100 on a batch of good shrimp, scour shopping malls for the best buffet deals, and munch prime rib until they kick him out.

Literally.

“They asked me to leave,” he said of the employees at Lawry’s. “I probably could have eaten 11 or 12 [prime ribs].”

The upshot of Thomas’ endless enjoyment of food is it shows how far he’ll go for his passions. That’s good news for the Redskins and the outlook of their offensive line.

“I live to eat, play ball, be with my family,” Thomas said. “It keeps me going.”


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