Redskins Release Wide Receiver James Thrash

James Thrash, a respected wideout who has played 12 seasons, has a lingering neck injury.
James Thrash, a respected wideout who has played 12 seasons, has a lingering neck injury. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 13, 2009

Two weeks after parting ways with the longest-tenured player in the organization, tackle Jon Jansen, the Washington Redskins announced yesterday the release of another longtime member of the team, wide receiver James Thrash, after he was unable to pass a physical.

Thrash had endeared himself to those within the organization for his work ethic and blue-collar style of play, and the 12-year veteran had proved to be a valuable part of the Redskins' special teams during his nine seasons in Washington.

The move was not unexpected, however, as Thrash has struggled with a lingering neck injury and was contemplating undergoing surgery to try to play another year, or possibly retiring. He was not present on the field for any of the Redskins' organized team activities over the past two weeks.

Several voice messages left with Thrash were not immediately returned.

"I talked with James, and we agreed that this was the best way to proceed," Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said in a statement released by the team. "James can focus on getting healthy, and we can move forward. James is a true Redskin and a fan favorite. He was a great player, teammate and team leader. Though we had to make this decision, we are confident that James will be involved in some capacity within the Redskins organization."

Since his return to Washington via trade after three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2000 to '03, the 34-year-old wide receiver's production slipped from 17 catches for 203 yards in 2004 to nine catches for 81 yards last season.

Thrash was a strong locker room presence, however, and a standout on special teams, compiling 53 tackles in the past four seasons, and in his career returned 124 kicks for 2,819 yards and one touchdown and had 42 punt returns for 418 yards. He also had 41 career carries for 362 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Thrash was forced into a more expansive role on offense last season with rookies Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas unable to pass the veteran on the depth chart. His release is a strong indicator that the Redskins are relying on Kelly and Thomas to produce more consistently.

When asked on Thursday whether Thrash would be offered a role on the coaching staff if he chose to retire, Zorn said: "That remains to be seen and a lot of that has to do with what his goals are and . . . as he sees his future. He's a tremendous asset to the Redskins organization, to this area and to all these people in this building. You know he's been a Redskin for a long time, [he is] a tremendous person and a tremendous player."

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri Southern in 1997, Thrash spent his first four seasons with Washington, playing 46 games and catching 65 passes for 884 yards.

He had his best year in Washington in 2000, when he registered 50 catches for 653 yards and 2 touchdowns, then signed as a free agent with the Eagles the following offseason. In Philadelphia, Thrash started 47 of 48 games and caught 164 passes for 2,026 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was traded to Washington in 2004 for a fifth-round draft pick after the Eagles acquired star wideout Terrell Owens.

"James is very dependable, not only as a player but someone who is very positive and took a great lead in always helping out the community," fellow wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said. "We looked to James for guidance when it came to specific plays and formations on the field, and we also relied on him to answer our questions off the field as our union rep. He is a close friend and one of the guys that I look to for guidance. I am still talking to him and keeping in contact with him. He is a brother to me and also to a lot of the other players."

Redskins Note: The team announced it has signed linebacker Robert Henson, a sixth-round draft pick, and wide receiver Marko Mitchell, taken in the seventh round. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company