Thomas' versatility opening eyes

OWINGS MILLS -- Adalius Thomas' vision of football isn't limited to the confines of one area of the field, or one defined position. The Baltimore Ravens list Thomas on the roster as an outside linebacker, which is his primary position. But he's much, much more than that.

His versatility and athleticism allows him to line up everywhere from safety to defensive tackle, rush end and linebacker. Not to mention the former Pro Bowl special-teams ace is one of the biggest punt gunners in the NFL.

It was an unusual sight to see a 6-foot-270-pound athlete wearing No. 96 line up 20 yards deep at safety in last Sunday's 16-13 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Thomas made it look routine with his range and football instincts.

Cornerback is one of the few positions Thomas hasn't played.

"AD is really our unsung hero," nickel back Deion Sanders said. "He does so much for this team. You really don't know the things he does out there on the field. He's a freak of an athlete, first and foremost.

"He can probably even return punts, but we're not going to risk that. He's a special player."

Because of Thomas' speed and knowledge of the game, he's able to adjust quickly to new positions. And his jack-of-all-trades, informed approach has earned him a brainy nickname.

"Some of the guys call me coordinator," Thomas said. "It started a couple of years ago when I was playing on the line and I had moved there from linebacker. I understood the coverages. The guys were like, ‘You must be the coordinator.'"

Thomas routinely plays 60 to 65 defensive snaps while also taking 15 to 20 special-teams snaps.

Besides his high-profile spot as a gunner on the punt team, Thomas blocks the gunner on punt returns, blocks on kickoff returns and busts the blocking wedge on kickoffs.

"I don't know that there's another player like Adalius Thomas in the National Football League," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Thomas ranks fifth on the team in tackles with 57 and leads Baltimore with four sacks. He has also intercepted a pass and forced a fumble.

When asked if moving around so much hurts his chances for accolades, Thomas replied: "Who says I can't get noticed doing what I'm doing? I don't think too many guys do what I do. I don't think anyone else has done it. It may be a new trend that's coming up."

TRAINING ROOM: Depth at cornerback remains a concern with Samari Rolle (head), Dale Carter (head) and Chris McAlister (thigh) all listed as questionable heading into Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"None of them is really serious, but we are a little vulnerable," Billick said.

Rolle has recovered well from his concussion with very little after-effects.

Offensive guard Brian Rimpf (hamstring) is questionable, but is expected to be able to take all of the snaps at right guard again with Keydrick Vincent (thigh) out.

"I think Rimpf's OK," Billick said. "Brian did a hell of a job. He pulled the hamstring early in the game. For him to fight through that and stay in the game was substantial. Hopefully, it won't affect him this game."

Tight end Daniel Wilcox (neck) was added to the injury report as probable.

SAMS' CLUB: Return specialist B.J. Sams has taken quickly to the cornerback position, playing two snaps last week. The coaching staff has designed a few defensive packages with him in mind.

"He seems to be adapting to it pretty well, and it's nice to have him in that disaster or specialty role," Billick said. "It's evolved beyond that because he's a quick little snot."

DISTRIBUTING THE BALL: One day after running back Jamal Lewis complained again about his lack of carries, Billick said he wishes that he could give him the football more often.

Lewis, though, is averaging only 2.95 yards per game and that lack of effectiveness has limited his workload and prompted a rotation with Chester Taylor.

"I would love to have Jamal carry 30 to 35 times and get in a rhythm and earn that," Billick said. "I would love that for him, love that for us, I would love that for Chester, too. I agree with him wholeheartedly that it's hard to get in a rhythm. You've got to earn that rhythm."

QUICK HITS: After a walkthrough Thursday morning that wasn't very sharp considering the condensed Thanksgiving schedule, Billick was angry and he loudly let the team know how he felt. As he walked away, the team huddled up and delivered a collective, "We're sorry." Billick's response? "I was good and [mad] and now you've made me laugh." … Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson's humorous mock proposal to a cheerleader named Daphne after a touchdown involved extensive preparation. "I should have proposed for real if I knew I was going to get that much attention," Johnson said. "I had it arranged with the entire team. I told the captain about the celebration and she told everybody to be ready so no matter which side of the field I scored on somebody would be there."


In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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