Mike Thomas apparently is healthy again and available to play football, but around the NFL, people talk about the Redskin tailback as if he were suffering from the plague.
After missing the previous three games with a foot injury, Thomas is far behind in his quest for impressive statistical accomplishments, one of his primary goals in the option year of his contract.
In interviews with a half-dozen NFL general managers yesterday, the consensus seemed to be that Thomas, no matter what his stats show, will not find himself in demand as a free agent.
If Thomas does not agree to terms with the Redskins by Feb. 1, and several sources in the organization say he probably will not, he could then negotiate with the other 27 teams. The Redskins would have the right to match an offer, or accept compensation in draft choices for him from another team.
"A lot of people always thought the guy was what we call a CPA," one general manager said. "What's a CPA? It's a Constant Pain in the (rear end). He flopped around a couple of colleges, he had trouble under George (Allen) and from what we hear, nothing's changed under Jack (Pardee).
"I don't pretend to know if he's injured this eyar, but I know what I've heard. Mike has got himself a Duane Thomas kind of reputation right now. Duane thought he was a very important person, but he learned people could live without him, and he learned the hard way. Who needs those problems?"
The general managers agreed that:
The Redskins could expect to receive no more than a third-round draft choice if they decided to trade Thomas. "If they could get a Nos. 1 for him," one GM said, "the guy who made the deal ought to get his salary doubled."
Thomas, who earns about $110,000 a year now, would have a difficult time getting much more than $125,000 a year from another NFL team.
Thomas might attract a better offer in the Canadian League, but teams north of the border may be leery of throwing around big money in light of Terry Metcalf's disappointing season in Toronto.
One general manager said, "I would say Mike's market value is considerably less than his agent is probably telling him it is.I think that's a major consideration in Mike's case - he's probably not getting good advice.
"Players always want to hear the right thing, and agents always have a knack of telling them what they want to hear. The Redskins have always had a pretty good reputation for paying their players well, especially with George (Allen) there.
"If Mike's making what we hear he's making, he's one of the highest paid backs in the league considering what he's done. A lot of people don't understand that when you don't go to the Pro Bowl or make All-Pro, there's a certain salary plateau.
"I know Mike made it to the Pro Bowl a couple years ago, but what's he done since?
You have to prove yourself every day in this business. So I don't think there are many teams who would pay him more than the Redskins would."
Another general manager said he would be wary of going after Thomas simply because he has already played four years in the league and "at that point, most running backs are seldom on the way up. They've reached their maximum or they're on the way down, especially a guy who plays a lot. Face it, those guys get banged up pretty good."
And how would the general managers rate Thomas on talent alone?
"I think he's a cut above a good running back, but he's certainly not an O. J. or a Chuck Foreman," said one. "I don't think he's that good a blocker, but the most important thing is that he won't play when he's nicked. When he's healthy and he wants to play, he's a gifted athlete.
"But if you want to create a team with a good attitude and good rapport among the players, you can't afford to have too many guys around like Mike. It's too easy to find a running back who won't be a problem for you."
"When stories about a guy's attitude keep coming up, there's a reason for it," added another general manager. "Why do you think he was still there in the fifth round. You hear that one of the reasons Calvin Hill left was because he was very unhappy playing behind a guy who often look himself out of games.
"Things like that have a demoralizing factor. Sometimes it's better having a guy with 85 percent talent and 100 percent determination and competitiveness than the other way around. Those kind of guys can become a cancer on your football team.
"I hope in Mike's situation that's not the case. When he wants to play, he's a hell of a back. But that's the question. Does he want to play? That's the question you always hear when people talk about Mike Thomas."
The Redskins had a second straight day off from practice, although many players worked out on their own . . . Latest NFL statistics show the Colts rank last in the AFC in total offense and defense. The Redskins are fifth in offense in the NFC, 10th in total defense . . . John Riggins is fourth in NFC rushing with 754 yards, only 49 behind leader Walter Payton . . . Tony Green is seond in the NFC in kickoff returns and third in punt returns . . . Mike Bragg is fifth in punting with a 41.2 average, and leads the NFL in net punting with a 37.9-yard mark.