Despite More Playing Time, Thomas Still Trying to Catch On

By Jason LaCanfora and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 22, 2008

Rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas was heavily involved in the game plan yesterday in Washington's 24-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field.

With veteran wide receiver James Thrash recovering from a high-ankle sprain and rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly inactive after injuring his ankle in Washington's previous game against New Orleans, the coaching staff leaned on Thomas more than it had in the first two games.

Although Thomas had one reception for seven yards, quarterback Jason Campbell looked for him often on deep routes. Thomas twice was called for pass interference while battling Arizona's cornerbacks for balls along the sidelines, but he said he believes he showed the coaching staff and his teammates he could handle more responsibility.

"It feels good to just give 'em a taste of what I can do," Thomas said. "I made a couple of bonehead plays with the pass interferences, but being out there and being involved felt real good. Hopefully, it's something that could continue. Hopefully, each and every game, I could have some type of role."

Thomas -- the Redskins' top draft pick -- has struggled running routes. He was slowed in training camp because of a hamstring injury and did not learn the playbook as fast as Coach Jim Zorn would have preferred. Since the beginning of the regular season, however, Thomas has made strides, Zorn said, especially running deep routes.

"Going into the week, Coach Zorn had a game plan," Thomas said. "He showed a lot of little different formations with my number in there. I looked at that as a great opportunity to showcase what I can do."

What would have been Thomas's first career touchdown reception was called back because of a penalty called on right tackle Stephon Heyer. "I had no clue that happened," Thomas said. "All I knew the ball was coming my way, and I had to make the catch. I did that."

Smoot Still in Pain

Cornerback Fred Smoot played sparingly as he tries to recover from a lingering hip injury. Smoot, who sometimes starts, was still hobbled by the painful ailment and saw little playing time, even in the nickel package. He was unable to practice fully last week and hopes to make more progress this week.

"I still got to really get back in there," Smoot said. "The hip is worse than I thought, actually, trying to get back from it, but it's just going to keep on getting better."

Reserve Leigh Torrence played more in his absence, and the Redskins had just four corners activated for the game, with rookie Justin Tryon scratched.

Fletcher's Father Dies

Linebacker London Fletcher missed two practices last week to attend the funeral of his father London Baker, who died Monday. When Fletcher left Thursday afternoon and did not return Friday, the team only said that his absence was for personal reasons.

Fletcher was close to his father -- so close that three years ago he honored him by asking to be called "London Fletcher-Baker."

London Baker had been in poor health lately and "his heart just gave out," Fletcher said.

Staff writer Les Carpenter contributed to this report.

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