- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Washington Redskins released veteran receiver and special teams standout James Thrash on Friday after he was unable to pass a physical because of a bulging disk in his neck.

Thrash missed all of the team’s on-field workouts this spring because of the injury, which surfaced in mid-March.

Thrash, who played nine of his 12 NFL seasons with the Redskins, caught nine passes for 81 yards and a touchdown last year, and his 22 special teams tackles were second-most on the Redskins.

The 34-year-old met with coach Jim Zorn on Thursday.

“He’s got a situation that’s not improving,” Zorn said after the Redskins’ final organized team activity.

In a statement Friday, Zorn said: “I talked with James, and we agreed that this was the best way to proceed. James can focus on getting healthy, and we can move forward. … He was a great player, teammate and team leader.”

Thrash was unavailable for comment, but the release likely means he was unwilling to undergo immediate surgery and that his career is over after 165 games, 290 receptions and 22 touchdowns.

“James is very dependable, not only as a player but someone who is very positive and took a great lead in always helping out the community,” Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle-El said.

“We looked to James for guidance when it came to specific plays and formations on the field. … He is a close friend and one of the guys that I look to for guidance.”

Thrash said last week that if he were told by the Redskins that he had to have surgery, his decision whether to play or retire would need to be made before the start of training camp July 30.

Thrash’s release opens up additional playing time for Malcolm Kelly and leaves the No. 5 spot open for a group that includes Marques Hagans and rookie Marko Mitchell.

In the first half of 2008, Thrash was the No. 3 receiver behind Santana Moss and Randle El. But after averaging about 27 snaps in the first 10 games, his role was diminished as Zorn developed more confidence in Devin Thomas and Kelly became healthy.

In the last six games, Thrash averaged six snaps compared with 15 for Thomas. In a three-game stretch, Kelly averaged 25 snaps before his knee issue shut him down. Kelly made it through offseason workouts without a setback, and Zorn said Thursday he was confident Kelly would not suffer any setbacks in training camp.

Hagans, 26, played quarterback at Virginia and was converted to receiver with the St. Louis Rams. He spent last year with three teams, making one catch with Kansas City before ending the season on the Redskins’ practice squad.

Mitchell, a seventh-round pick from Nevada, provides size (6-foot-4). The other receivers on the roster are Keith Eloi, Jaison Williams and Roydell Williams. Special teams play during the preseason will likely determine who makes the Week 1 roster.

Thrash made the Redskins’ roster in 1997 as a free agent from Missouri Southern. After four seasons as a role player, he signed with Philadelphia, where he started for three years and averaged 55 catches and five touchdowns before the Eagles traded him back to the Redskins in 2004.

In his second stint with Washington, Thrash started only 15 of 72 games and scored just four touchdowns, but he carved out a niche as a Joe Gibbs favorite and special teams contributor.

Note - The Redskins signed sixth-round draft pick Robert Henson and seventh-round pick Mitchell on Friday. They released long snapper Jeremy Cain and linebacker Tyson Smith.

Henson will compete for a reserve outside linebacker position following a college career at TCU that included 270 tackles and four interceptions. Mitchell made 153 catches for 2,763 yards and 22 touchdowns at Nevada.

Only first-round pick Brian Orakpo and third-round choice Kevin Barnes remain unsigned.

Staff writer David Elfin contributed to this report.

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