Top Pick Could Miss Two Preseason Games

By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 25, 2008

Rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas, the Washington Redskins' top draft pick, was carted off the field yesterday after straining his right hamstring in 11-on-11 drills and could be sidelined for the team's first two preseason games.

Thomas went down in the morning practice while trying to make a catch on a deep pass along the right sideline from quarterback Jason Campbell. He will be reevaluated in two weeks, Coach Jim Zorn said.

The Redskins and Indianapolis Colts kick off the NFL's preseason schedule in the Hall of Fame Game Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio, and Washington plays its second preseason game Aug. 9 against the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field.

Although the Redskins appeared hopeful the wideout might be back before that game, Zorn said the team would exercise caution with Thomas. "He may be ready in two weeks, it may be a few days later," Zorn said. "We don't know how he heals yet.

"This is his first pull. Sometimes it may take a little longer, and then we'll see how fast he can work himself back into full speed."

On the first day of training camp, starting defensive end Phillip Daniels and reserve defensive end Alex Buzbee went down with season-ending injuries. Zorn initially feared Thomas had a knee injury.

"He grabbed his leg up high, and you think knee," Zorn said. "Nothing I can do. I just said, 'Okay, here it is again.' Fortunately it's a pulled muscle [rather] than any kind of structural damage."

Thomas, who wore a sleeve on his right thigh after being injured, limped as he walked slowly onto the field to watch the afternoon session.

"I felt something grab at me" while he was running the route, Thomas said. "It kind of locked up on me like a cramp. I couldn't really put no pressure on it. It was a deeper cramp. More like a spasm."

Despite having a lot to learn, Thomas obviously has talent, Campbell said.

"He's a guy who's got so much deceptive speed," Campbell said. "He runs well, he runs fast, and he's a competitor. He's a good young player, we all enjoy being around him. I just hope he doesn't miss too many days. We need him to be out here learning. The more experience he gets the better."

The Redskins selected Thomas out of Michigan State with the first of their three second-round picks (No. 34 overall) in an attempt to fill their need for a big wide receiver. Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, focused exclusively on big receivers with Washington's top three picks, choosing pass-catching tight end Fred Davis out of Southern California and former Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly after Thomas.

In his junior season at Michigan State, Thomas set a school record with 79 receptions, led the Big Ten Conference with 1,260 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Thomas, who was also a record-setting kick returner for the Spartans, was projected by many analysts as a first-round pick.

At 6 feet 2, 218 pounds, Thomas is among the biggest wide receivers on the team, and there is an opening for a No. 3 wide receiver behind Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El -- who are each 5-10.

After participating in the Redskins' offseason program, Thomas expressed confidence about being ready for Zorn's version of the West Coast offense. Early in training camp, however, Thomas has struggled as he tries to make the transition to the NFL.

"The first couple of practices, Malcolm [Kelly] made some plays," wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said. "Devin is still coming along."

Said Thomas: "I started feeling like I was getting comfortable with everything. It is just something that will slow me down right now. I feel like I will get back in there by getting treatment."

Kelly (6-4, 219), who is playing the X receiver, or split end position, does not possess the speed of Thomas, who has started out at the Z receiver, or flanker. He has, however, made a good impression in camp because of his receiving and blocking skills. Kelly has made several acrobatic catches on deep balls thrown by Campbell and has been physical on running plays in 11-on-11 drills.

"We're all impressed with what he's doing because he's been very mellow, if you will," Zorn said. "Not a big voice, but he makes a statement when he's on the field."

Kelly has impressed Campbell by "running good routes and being smart," Campbell said. "He's get smooth hands, and he's a smart guy. He's big, he's got a big frame, and he can help us out.

"He really watches Santana and Randle El, watches how they run routes and improve. He's falling right into their footsteps and learning from them. He's really excited about the opportunity, and I'm excited about his progress."

Redskins Notes: Shawn Springs worked at free safety and cornerback with LaRon Landry out of morning drills after tweaking his left hamstring.

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