- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | Words like “typical” or “routine” couldn’t describe rookie receiver Devin Thomas‘ first NFL training camp with the Washington Redskins.

His coach scorned him for failing a conditioning test. A hamstring injury has slowed him. But Thomas returned to practice this past week, earning praise from his coach, and started in his preseason debut Saturday against the host New York Jets.

“I just didn’t want the injury to hold me back,” Thomas said. “I know it was a situation where [coach Jim Zorn] maybe didn’t feel like I was in shape, but I wanted to show him I’m a competitor. I looked at it as a challenge, so I got back out here as fast as possible.”

Washington’s highest pick in the 2008 draft at No. 34 overall, Thomas and fellow second-round receiver Malcolm Kelly began camp with high expectations, but both were felled by injuries which Zorn attributed in part to their lack of conditioning.

Thomas returned from a strained hamstring this week and showed a penchant for making catches in traffic.

With starting receiver Antwaan Randle El out because of a sore hamstring, and Kelly still recovering from Aug. 4 knee surgery, Thomas was due to get plenty of action against the Jets.

“I can’t wait to see him line up and see how he fares,” Zorn said during the week. “I’ve got to get him out there as much as I can. I think then he’ll see how fast the game is. I think he’ll learn some things Saturday night that he doesn’t know yet, and I’m hoping he responds well.”

Thomas starred at Michigan State in 2007, but the Big Apple is even bigger than the Big Ten.

“It’s going to be wild, man,” Thomas said. “That’s a big stage, up there in New York. I’ll have a lot of family watching, and they’re all expecting big things. I’m ready to see what I can do, so I’ve got to put on a good show.”

Thomas wasn’t the most heralded player making his debut with a new team Saturday, not with all-time passing leader Brett Favre suiting up for the first time in his new shade of green after 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Thomas grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., watching Favre torment the nearby Detroit Lions twice a year.

“As careers go, you see the veterans change teams,” Thomas said. “I remember when Joe Montana went from San Fran to K.C. It’s kind of weird, but you know toward the end that usually happens. It will still be a little weird to see him in a different uniform.”

Taylor deals with injury

Jason Taylor earned defensive player of the year honors in 2006 while enduring painful plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Taylor suffered the same injury last December, one that’s still lingering, but the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end refuses to give into the pain.

“I’ve been dealing with these type injuries for almost two years,” said Taylor, whom the Redskins acquired from the Miami Dolphins on July 20 after starting end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending torn ACL. “The right one didn’t feel better until it finally tore. That’s what we’re waiting for with the left one now. It’s partially torn, so it’s still a pain in the butt. But you’re hurt every day, you play football, so I just deal with it.”

Plantar fasciitis doesn’t feel better until it’s completely torn, as former Redskins defensive tackle Joe Salave’a discovered in 2005.

Until then, Taylor - whose 130 consecutive games started rank seventh among active players - is just dealing with the pain. His new orthotics only help so much.

“On game day, you take enough stuff to keep the pain away,” Taylor said. “It’s worse during the week. It hurts to walk. It hurts to just standing here talking. I broke my arm and I broke my collarbone, but this is worse. I’m not one who likes to sit out, so it’s good that I have a high threshold for pain. I might have sat out more practices during camp, but I need to get used to playing with these guys.”

cCorey Masisak reported from Ashburn, Va.



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