A year ago the Redskin running back caused a stir by complaining publicly that the coach, George Allen, forced him to practice while injured.
Now Thomas is in the headlines again because he refused to take a pain-killing injection in order to play against Philadelphia last Sunday.
He sat on the bench, in uniform, watching his teammates lose their first game of the season.
Good for him.
Remember Bill Brundige?
One of the Redskins' most valuable defensive linemen last season, Brundige tore up his foot against Green Bay on Nov. 21.
But the Redskins were in contention for a playoff spot.
And George Allen, like Vince Lombardi and all winning-is-everything coaches, wanted desperately to reach the playoffs.
Allen once said he would give a year of his life to win the Super Bowl.
Makes you wonder what he would do with a player's life.
Certainly, Brundige didn't have to take the pain-killing injections to play in Buffalo.
No one put a gun to his head.
The next week, in the arctic cold of St. Louis on a concrete-like artificial field, Brundige didn't have to take the shots to play.
No one held his family hostage.
He was on crutches the day before that St. Louis game.
But he played all the way.
It was, he said later, his decision.
No one forced him to do it.
And that is the evil of the whole thing.
For while Allen had the out of saying it was the player's decision, he also made it very clear to Brundige how important the games were to the Redskins.
Allen told Brundige how valuable he was to the team, how the defensive line was so important, how vital Brundige's pass rushing would be against a St. Louis team that best moved the ball by passing.
The Redskins were a 43-man team and every man was vital to every other man's success and this was the most important game in Redskin history.
That's the way George Allen would talk to a man with a torn-up foot.
No gun to his head, no hostages, no demands he take the pain-killers.
Just a so-very-sincere reminder of how much the guy means to his teammates.
So Brundige took the shots and played.
It may have been the end of his career.
Allen is doing TV color, writing a column, marking time at $200,000 a year until he gets another coaching job. Bill Brundige had surgery this summer and no one knows if he'll play football again.
If he had the foot in cast when it was first hurt, he would be playing now.But a man in a cast is no good to a team that needs to win this week. A man who can't play is useless to a coach who thinks winning a Super Bowl is more important than life.
Why did Brundige play in St. Louis?
"Well, I just thought every game was that important for a playoff spot, and there was nobodyelse," he told The Post's Leonard Shapiro. "There was a lot of pressure put on me, not so much to make me play, but that if I was really needed by the team. I felt that responsibility, everyone on the team felt it. So you did what you had to do."
But he couldn't play the next week, in the season's last game, against Los Angeles, and though the Redskins won those games, they didn't get into the playoffs. And this summer Brundige needed surgery that caused him to miss this season.
"If I had known we weren't going to make the playoffs even though we won all those games, obviously I wouldn't have done it," Brundige told Shapiro, "because it really doesn't mean a thing.
"But how do you know that then? No, I don't blame anybody, I'm just sorry I'll have to miss the year."
Brundige is too kind.
Without Allen's so-very-sincere reminders of his immediate value, perhaps Brundige, a bright fellow, would have thought more of what a healthy Brundige would mean to the Redskins, and to himself, for the next five years, not the next two weeks.
Like war, football creates a bond among men, each ready to sacrifice himself for his buddy. But, for heaven's sake, this is not war. If not a game, it is, at most, a business, and as surely as George Allen wanted Brundige to play, so would he surely ship out Brundige when he was no longer valuable.
In such a business, the player has to look out for himself. Maybe a hundred men each week play with drug numbing injuries. They do it out of insecurity mostly: maybe they'll lose their job . . . Maybe they'll lose the macho respect of their peers.
It is more difficulty by far, then, to say no to pain-killing drugs.
But Mike Thomas said no.
Good for him.
He alone knows how much ankle hurts and how much it affects his ability to move and so protect himself from further injury.
There is no evidence the new Redskin coach, Jack Pardee, has made any so-very-sincere reminders to Thomas, and that is nice, for the decision to play hurt ought to be left to the man whose body and future are at stake.