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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Thomas Finds Fit At Home

    Thomas Finds Fit at Home
    Friday, July 31, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Hollis Thomas has been around the NFL long enough to know what he brings to the table.

    But as he hit free agency this offseason looking for a place to play his 14th NFL season, the decision to come to St. Louis became easy based on three simple reasons.

    “I know the system, I know Spags and it’s home,” Thomas said with a smile Thursday morning.

    With that, Thomas signed a one-year contract with the Rams late Wednesday afternoon to help literally and figuratively fill a major hole in the team’s defensive line.

    Coming back to St. Louis was the easy part of the equation for Thomas. Born and raised in town, Thomas attended the Academy of Math and Science.

    Because that school didn’t have a football team, Thomas was able to join the team at Sumner High. There, he won a pair of 4A state championships and played basketball for the academy.

    Thomas was impressive enough on the football field to earn a scholarship to Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Ill. Rarely along the way did it occur to Thomas that he could someday land in the NFL but after a successful career for the Huskies in which was a solid contributor for three seasons, that started to become more of a reality.

    “I wasn’t really thinking that far ahead,” Thomas said. “I was thinking about getting to college. When I got to college I was thinking about pro.”

    Thomas went undrafted in the 1996 NFL Draft but was given a shot to compete with the Eagles for a job in Philadelphia.

    The opportunity was all he needed. Using his undrafted status as the motivating chip on his shoulder, Thomas landed a roster spot and became an instant contributor for the Eagles.

    Thomas played in all 16 games as a rookie with five starts and earned some All Rookie honors. So began what would become an accomplished 13-year career in which Thomas became a dominating force in the middle of the Eagles defensive line.

    It was there, in the city of Brotherly Love that Thomas met Steve Spagnuolo, then the linebackers coach of the Eagles.

    Spagnuolo quickly took a liking to Thomas who had a knack for getting his teammates lined up in the right spots and taking on blockers so Spagnuolo’s linebackers can run free to the ball.

    After a three-year stop in New Orleans, Thomas found himself on the market this offseason after a triceps injury required surgery and left him unable to take a physical for the Saints.

    Thomas spent his offseason recovering from surgery and missed all opportunities to get in some work in Organized Team Activities or minicamps.

    Only recently did Thomas begin looking for his next destination. As he sorted out the options, he knew St. Louis was an option but he didn’t want to simply choose a location based on where he was from.

    Ultimately it wasn’t the comforts of home so much as his comfort with the head coach and the system in place that helped Thomas land with the Rams.

    “It was pretty much that I worked with Spags before,” Thomas said. “If I came here and I didn’t know the system and stuff, it wouldn’t have been a good fit. I would have been coming just to get home. It feels like a good fit all the way around.”

    For their part, the Rams have been in need of a mammoth defensive tackle for the middle of the defense since the departure of Ryan Pickett a few years ago.

    With Clifton Ryan and Adam Carriker the only other established tackles on the roster, Thomas can help serve a mentor role as well as working into a rotation. Of course, Thomas has been guaranteed nothing but Spagnuolo likes what he’s getting in terms of his newest addition.

    “Hollis is a guy I have a lot of history with and he’s a big defensive tackle that’s played a lot of football in this league,” Spagnuolo said. “I have been saying it to everybody that it does start up front. We’ll see what he can do. He’s been away from football now for a little bit. He didn’t go through OTAs so he probably has to knock some rust off but I think he will be fine.”

    Thomas participated in his first practice as a Ram on Thursday morning, reporting a day earlier than many of the veterans. He did so with a purpose, though.

    The listed playing weight for Thomas is 335 pounds but he says he’s in the “ballpark” of 340 pounds now. In other words, he wanted to get into camp as soon as possible so he can work his way back into playing shape and get back to his “fighting weight.”

    “I want to get in the best shape I can for this team and the only way to do that is get here, get in and get as much work as I can because obviously I am going to be rushed because I haven’t done any football stuff in the last few months,” Thomas said. “Even Hall of Famers and All Pros can’t come in and just strap it on and run out there and make all kinds of plays.”

    Should Thomas get down to a more comfortable weight and find himself in shape, he should figure prominently into a defensive line that Spagnuolo has no qualms with rotating on a regular basis.

    Although Thomas has 20 career sacks, it’s not chasing the quarterback that has kept him in the league for so long. No, Thomas’ top objective for most of his career has been finding a way to stop the opponent’s running game.

    The Rams allowed more rushing yards last season than at any point in franchise history so anything Thomas can bring to the table to slow down that area would go a long way toward an improved unit in 2009.

    “That’s what I will try to do, stop the run the best way I can,” Thomas said. “That’s been pretty much what I do since I have been playing. I figure I do a halfway decent job since I am still playing.”

    In addition to using his undrafted status for motivation in playing the game, Thomas says he is always on the look out for other perceived slights that he can use to his advantage.

    “I like beating up on people; that’s the only way I can explain it,” Thomas said. “Take out the frustration. You guys might write something that frustrates me so I might take it out on the guy who is right in front of me.”

  2. #2
    thoey's Avatar
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    Re: Thomas Finds Fit At Home

    For the Vet minimum, I think this guy can help. I just hope his only reason for signing here wasn't to be close to his retirement home.
    This space for rent...

  3. #3
    Ram Dragoon's Avatar
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    Re: Thomas Finds Fit At Home

    His Vetran status might have another plus on "D"...motivation and toughness. A little long in the tooth as a player goes, so it does make sense for a 1 year deal which might lead to a couple more years if he is productive.

    Depending on how training camp goes, The Rams likely will field him. How good a fit will he be--only time will tell

  4. #4
    peramoure is offline Registered User
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    Re: Thomas Finds Fit At Home

    I didn't realize we'd signed this guy til I just hopped on the boards. He's the opposite of Laroi Glover - a huge run stopper. I can't wait to see if this guy lives up to even a little bit of the potential.

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