In six NFL seasons, right guard Randy Thomas has missed just four games due to injury. So his durability was unquestioned heading into the 2004 season and after quickly overcoming a severe hamstring injury last November, he can now add toughness to his list of traits.
The 6-5, 306-pounder went down with the hamstring injury in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Thomas was expected to miss 2-4 weeks due to the injury, an anomaly for a player with a history of such good health.
"I take care of myself as far as working out," Thomas said. "I've been lucky as far as getting away from piles. I try to keep my feet moving when I do feel a pile or something. It's a lot of luck, because a lot of guys get hurt around piles."
Against Philadelphia, Thomas appeared to get his leg caught underneath him as he was blocking an Eagle defensive lineman. A few players fell around Thomas's legs before he went down.
"You never know when it's your time," Thomas said.
For the next game, a Week 12 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Redskins shifted Ray Brown to right guard and started rookie Mark Wilson at right tackle.
Remarkably, Thomas returned to the lineup a week later, a testament to his durability and work ethic.
"There are so many players here who could have said they don't want to come back, but guys like Randy Thomas come back and play," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "I'm proud of him."
Certainly the injury most devastating to the team was the Achilles' tendon tear suffered by right tackle Jon Jansen during the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Jansen, who plays immediately to Thomas' right, had not missed a start in five NFL seasons leading up to the 2004 campaign.
"The year playing with Jon was a fun experience," Thomas said of the 2003 season. "He's a team guy. Of course when you have a leader on the team who's not there, you're going to miss him."
Jansen was a frequent presence at Redskins Park last season during his rehabilitation and he was recently cleared by team doctors to resume workouts with the team.
Jansen's commitment to the team while injured is something that impressed Thomas.
"More than anything, [Jansen] wants us to do well regardless of whether he's in there," Thomas said. "You see it because he was always around still getting guys going. We're trying to play well for him."
Thomas was enjoying a fine season leading up to his injury. He helped lead the way for Clinton Portis' 1,315 rushing yards in 15 games. In typical fashion, however, Thomas deflected praise and focused on the team's performance.
"I'm not the type of guy that will tell you how I've been performing," Thomas said. "I just try to prepare for each game thinking that we're going to win. Preparation for every week is important. I get up for every game no matter the opponent."
A resident of East Point, Georgia, and teammate of Fred Smoot at Mississippi State, Thomas was one of four New York Jets that came to the Redskins during the offseason prior to the 2003 season (the others being Morton, Hall and Laveranues Coles). His addition immediately upgraded the Redskins' offensive line and Thomas was named a third alternate to the Pro Bowl that year.
The offensive line struggled at times in 2003 under then-head coach Steve Spurrier. This season, Gibbs installed more of a run-oriented offense and Portis was brought in to help complement Gibbs' scheme.
Thomas said that he adjusted well to the change.
"I do like the run game," Thomas said. "It allows you to be aggressive. It's a big difference from last year and we also have a real good running back [in Portis]. Any way it goes, I just like to win."