The first duty Redskin running back Mike Thomas performed after signing a one-year contract today was drive his older brother Earl to the airport in nearby Harrisburg. It was something little brother had not bargained for.
Earl Thomas, 28, a six-year National Football League veteran wide receiver, was the most surprising cut as the Redskins waived or placed on injured reserve 19 players to reach the 4 p.m. 60-player limit.
"Coach Allen said he'd give him a chance to play, but that chance didn't come," Mike Thomas said. "You saw the game last night; Earl didn't play. He's just disappointed that he didn't get a shot . . . He worked hard in practice. I'm just surprised they didn't give him a chance."
Only three weeks ago, coach George Allen signed Earl Thomas as a free agent the day before training camp opened and said the one-time St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Bear had a good shot at making the 43-man regular-season roster.
Thomas became a casualty of the numbers game as did some other good prospects. Their only route to the 43-man roster is on the special teams and, on the Redskins, these units are set as much as the first-team offense and defense.
"It's not that I wasn't willing to play on the special teams," said Earl Thomas, shortly before leaving on the first leg of his trip home to Greenville, Tex. "I wasn't put on any. The special teams mean a lot of making this team and, as far as receivers are concerned, Frank Grant and Charley Taylor, you aren't going to interrupt them."
"He's probably a better receiver than some of these other guys," Allen said of Earl Thomas. 'But we felt they're better on the special teams, and that's how you've got to make this team."
Larry Jones and Danny (Lightning) Buggs, the backup wide receivers, are both stalwarts of the special teams. In addition, Buggs helped his chances in Monday's 16-14 opening exhibition win over Cleveland with six catches for 80 yards.
As he recalled 14 years of organized football, Earl Thomas related how he had tried to become a Redskin for two seasons before this training camp, how he wanted to play with a group of team players like Washington's and how he wanted to play on the same team with his brother, to be around him.
"This is where I wanted to come. I feel at home here, as far as the players are concerned," said Earl Thomas. "I know why they win; they play together, just like they did Monday night. I wanted to play with Mike; I wanted to play with a first-class organization.
"I took a chance coming here. It was no secret I wanted to play here with these guys. I don't make decisions. I didn't come here to coach; I came here to play. All I can do is weigh my decision. They had people who were here last year. I thought I had the talent.
"To get a chance to be on the field with Mike would be super for me," he added. "I've spent more time around Mike the last three weeks than the past five years. It hurts, sure, but that's life."
Thomas said he had no other teams in mind at present and was looking forward only to relaxing at home.