The scene is vivid in the minds of Redskins enthusiasts: guard Randy Thomas being carted off FedExField after breaking his leg during a 35-7 dismantling of Dallas late last season, while the crowd chants, "RANDY, RANDY," to note their admiration for the popular Redskin.
At the time, Thomas was having a Pro Bowl-caliber year, and his blocking was opening wide holes for Clinton Portis and other runners during the Redskins' five-game winning streak that led to a playoff berth.
Given that an injury spoiled Thomas' chances of making the Pro Bowl, has he been on a mission this year to show that he's worthy of his first appearance in the all-star game?
"I'm not too much into individual accolades," he said. "I just want to win games. The Pro Bowl is a nice thing but it's so political and certain players are overlooked. This is my eighth year, and I've never been there, so it's not something that I actually go out and play for."
Okay, he's being modest. So let's ask Thomas' neighbor on the right side of the offensive line, tackle Jon Jansen.
"Definitely, I think he's in line for a Pro Bowl," Jansen said. "For a lineman, you've got to be on a team that has a couple more victories than we have right now, but we're hoping to rectify that one. Hopefully, he gets the honors he deserves."
The one consistent for the Redskins this season has been their running game. They are ranked eighth in rushing offense this season--and Thomas has been a big part of that success.
No one gets Pro Bowl recognition for leadership skills. But Thomas has become one of the Redskins' true leaders. Having always been a vocal person, he isn't afraid to speak his mind in order to send a message to teammates.
Jansen said he's very emotional, and Redskins defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn noted that he brings a special level of energy to the locker room.
"He's the most intense guy on game day," Wynn said after the Redskins pulled out a dramatic 22-19 win over the Cowboys on Dec. 5 at FedEx. "Him on offense, Marcus [Washington] on defense, as far as bringing that energy. It was unbelievable today.
"Just the pre-game talk that Randy gave the guys before we went out on the field. Our whole thing was playing with a passion and playing with energy and having fun. It's got to start up front."
The Redskins improved to 3-5 with the win over Dallas. But a pair of road losses to Philadelphia and Tampa Bay the following weeks have crippled their playoff chances.
Afterward, the Redskins were groping for answers as to why their season has deteriorated after an offseason filled with such high expectations.
Thomas said it was a "shock" to be 3-7 after 10 games.
"Of course, whenever you've got talent we've got," he said, frustration palpable on his face. "It's hard to explain when you work so hard in this game, and you end up almost laying an egg on offense. We've got to find a way to score."
Thomas was unable to pinpoint the cause of the Redskins' slide this season.
"It's a lot of things," he said. "I don't like to critique anyone. Personally, I've got to play better. As a group, we've got to play better. As an offense, we've got to do better."
The Redskins have turned to Jason Campbell, the second-year player out of Auburn, at quarterback. Veterans like Thomas will be working hard to make sure the young QB gets the protection he needs in his first stretch of NFL action.
Thomas came to the Redskins as part of that famous Redskins Park weekend back in 2003 when the team plucked four players from the New York Jets-Thomas, Laveranues Coles, John Hall and Chad Morton.
Of that group, Thomas and Hall are the only ones left standing as a Redskin--and Hall is on injured reserve. Beyond that, Coles made the Pro Bowl in 2003 and Thomas should be given serious consideration in 2006.
In terms of his popularity among Redskins fans, Thomas resembles another guard who wore No. 77 as a Redskin: Tre Johnson. Tre made it to Hawaii in 1999, and if Randy Thomas should add that trip to his resume in 2006, there would be justification.