Last season, Thomas began camp reviewing how to play linebacker, his college position, but was shifted back to end for the regular season because of need. This year, Thomas opened at defensive end and is now back at outside linebacker because of his progression and nagging injuries to outside linebackers Cornell Brown and Terrell Suggs. "That sounds kind of familiar," Thomas said. "I like to keep y'all guys guessing. It was planned from the get-go, so why not?"
Thomas started a dozen games at defensive end last season and collected 68 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, three sacks and 11 pass deflections. The 6-foot-2, 270-pounder also finished third on the team in special-teams tackles. Thomas didn't indicate a preference for end or linebacker. "I'm a football player," he said. "Whatever position helps my team win, that's where I want to play."
MEDICAL UPDATE: The Ravens are beginning to mend somewhat as their injury list shrinks. Running back Musa Smith, who sprained a knee capsule during the first week of camp, is taking more work although it remains unclear when he'll be ready for full-contact drills. "It's good to finally get a look and see what he's about," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Hopefully, we can get enough reps out of him between now and the regular season to find out exactly what his capabilities are." A third-round pick out of Georgia, Smith has experienced swelling in his knee that has been reduced slightly through anti-inflammatory medicine. "My knee still bothers me a little bit, but it's feeling better," Smith said. "I'm getting back into cutting and loading up on my knee."
Cornerback Corey Fuller (strained groin) returned to practice. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown (knee) worked without a setback. Tight end John Jones (minor concussion, strained neck) is starting to recover and said he'll be a game-time decision this weekend against the Washington Redskins. "I don't have any memory loss," Jones said. "I know I got the best of the hit, but it hurt."
The injured players who didn't practice: cornerback Alvin Porter (strained groin), return specialist Hugh Smith (shoulder), safety Ray Perryman (shoulder), receiver Frank Sanders (toes), linebacker Bernardo Harris (broken leg), cornerback Tom Knight (hamstring) and receiver Milton Wynn (legs). The injured players who took limited part in practice included: center Mike Flynn (knee), fullback Harold Morrow (knee), Brown (hamstring), return specialist Lamont Brightful (knee) and punter Dave Zastudil (hamstring). Tight end Trent Smith (broken leg) and receiver Javin Hunter (ruptured Achilles tendon) are out for the season.
MIXED REVIEWS: The Ravens' traditional rookie talent show held Monday night was panned harshly by critics. In particular, the musical skills of rookie quarterback Kyle Boller were derided. "It wasn't too good," Thomas said of the rookies' skits and singing. "Boller's singing stunk. The rookies shouldn't quit their day job. I hope they make it." Boller sheepishly admitted that his rendition of an R. Kelly song wasn't quite up to par, but blamed a malfunctioning compact disc player for his performance anxiety. The veterans accepted no excuses, though. "They were kind of weak," offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "These rookies get a D on the creative side. It was still fun, and it's always good to get a rookie show because it's a sign that camp is almost over."
Meanwhile, Mulitalo, an American Samoan, and his growing group of Pacific Islanders brought down the house with their popular war dance. "The Samoan dancing, that's always good," Thomas said. "It's nice how they go to war." The dance involves whooping, shaking, foot-stomping and aggressive movements signifying readiness for battle. "We have more pineapples on the team," said Mulitalo, who was joined by defensive linemen Maake Kemoeatu and Joe Salave'a and linebacker Chris Brown. "The group is multiplying." Another staple of rookie night is the "King Ugly" award, with first-place bestowed upon Fuller followed by Suggs and offensive tackle Tony Pashos. "It hurt my heart to see Corey win it," safety Ed Reed said. "I just want to send out my congratulations to him." QUICK HIT: Franchise cornerback Chris McAlister returned to practice after missing the previous day for personal reasons.
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.