"I miss it... the feel of runnin'. Its an art to me; it always was. It's the way I express creativity."

That was Duane Thomas talking recently, some time after the former Cowboy/Redskin/Patriot/Charger/WFL Hawaiian/CFL B.C. Lion had quietly returned to work in the legal department of a Los Angeles film studio from stirring a flurry of controversy by being spotted in the Green Bay Packer training facilities last midseason.

The Packers escaped NFL punishment for what appeared to be a tryout well beyond the one-day league limit, and Coach Bart Starr said Thomas had been invited after he'd written "a nice letter" requesting a chance. "I'm aware of the socalled knocks against him." Starr said. "But I think maturity has enabled him to change. He is a very pleasant, calm young man... but we're not signing him."

And today, Duane Thomas is a Packer.

Starr & C3. yesterday signed Thomas, 31, with visions of the Thomas who was NFL rookie of the year for Dallas in 1970, then led the '71 Cowboys to Super Bowl victory -- not the Thomas of moody sioence, marijuana, missed practices and planes, bouts with fans, players, coaches...

To stay in shape, Thomas has been jogging regularly in L.A. Sometimes, carrying a football.

Look out, Terdell Middleton?