- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

Washington Redskins right guard Randy Thomas yesterday continued the surprisingly quick rehabilitation of his strained hamstring and positioned himself to start tomorrow against the New York Giants at FedEx Field.

Thomas was upgraded to probable, and coach Joe Gibbs said the usual right side of the line — with Thomas at guard and Ray Brown at tackle — should be back together after some shuffling last week.

The injury was expected to sideline Thomas two to four weeks, but he has missed just one game. Gibbs called it another example of the character that is emerging on this team despite a dismal record (3-8).

“It’s black and blue,” Gibbs said of Thomas’ hamstring, his voice tinged with astonishment. “He’s a tough sucker. It means a lot to us. It means a lot to me. We’ve got a number of those stories going around. Those will be the guys we build around.”

Thomas conceded he isn’t anywhere near fully healthy — just healthy enough to let his will take over.

“It’s wanting to play,” Thomas said. “That sometimes can take over some pain. You’ve got to want to do it, and you’ve got to have your mind right.”

Among other injured players, defensive tackle Jermaine Haley (knee) was downgraded to doubtful. Rookie offensive lineman Mark Wilson (knee), who started at right tackle last week while Brown shifted to guard, also isn’t expected to play.

On the positive side, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (hip) returned to practice, and defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin) continued to respond well to this week’s work. Both will play tomorrow.

“I think the soreness I had [Thursday] was just because I hadn’t done those movements in a while,” said Daniels, who missed three games and returned to practice Wednesday. “But I got a lot of contact yesterday, and I feel better. It’s a good sign. Hopefully it will hold up.”

Vote for Samuels

A mediocre year for Washington’s offensive line, a few sacks allowed by left tackle Chris Samuels and the heft of Samuels’ contract are creating some speculation about his future with the organization.

Samuels is scheduled to make $5.1 million in salary next season with a $400,000 workout bonus this offseason and a $1 million roster bonus due in July. Without a cap-friendly extension — the kind linebacker LaVar Arrington signed a year ago — Samuels could find himself out of a job.

But assistant head coach for offense Joe Bugel gave the former Pro Bowl blocker an enthusiastic endorsement this week, saying, “I think he’s an All-Pro. I really do. I think he’s one of the top five in the league.”

Although Samuels has surrendered a few sacks, in particular one last week to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, Bugel said it’s important to note that Samuels often is left “on an island” in Washington’s blocking schemes.

“In all fairness to him, he’s like Gilligan,” Bugel said. “You’re by yourself. You’re on your own, because we’re going to help somebody else. You go 50-60 snaps, sooner or later somebody’s going to get a little escape on you.”

Samuels counts just “two or three” sacks against him this season and believes he is back at his Pro Bowl level of 2001. As for his future, he hopes it is in Washington.

“I’ve made it known to my coach and the owner,” Samuels said. “I love the area. I love the community. I’ve made a lot of friends here. I just don’t want to change anything. I believe in this group of guys even though we haven’t won this year. … I just want to be here. They know it and I think they’re going to try to get it done.”

Extra points

Gibbs said wide receiver Rod Gardner, who has been plagued by drops in recent weeks, enjoyed a “very good” week of practice. In any case, the coach said he wouldn’t consider shuffling the receiving corps to get additional production. The group caught just 66 yards worth of passes in last weekend’s loss at Pittsburgh.

“I don’t believe in shaking up, really,” Gibbs said. “If you’re not playing good, that’s one thing. But making statements and all that, I’ve never been into that. … And right now, almost each and every one of those guys is getting a chance to help us.” …

Gibbs’ fewest rushing touchdowns in a non-strike season was eight in 1988, when he endured his only losing season (7-9). This year the Redskins have just two rushing touchdowns.

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