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Thomas fulfilling his role

    Josh Thomas said it doesn’t occur to him to complain.  Not about playing time, his role, or about what some might see as a difficult circumstance.  Thomas, a fourth-year defensive end for the Colts, has improved steadily in his three NFL seasons, and has been a valuable member of the team’s defensive line rotation.  Yet, he plays behind Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.

So, while Thomas – who played collegiately at Syracuse University – has developed into a solid pass rusher and an equally valuable run defender, he has started just two of 37 NFL games.  And last season, when the Colts won the Super Bowl, he played as a reserve in 14 regular season games and four in the postseason.  And you know what?, Thomas told That’s OK.  “That’s my role,” Thomas said during the Colts’ recent summer-school session, which concluded last week at the Colts’ training facility.  “If I can be productive with 25-to-30 plays a game in this defensive situation, I’m doing my job.  That’s the way I look at it.  I think that’s how I was last year.”

Thomas, who signed with the Colts shortly after the 2004 NFL Draft, has been productive with his time since making the team in his rookie training camp.  In 2004, he played 11 games with one sack before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.  In 2005, after rehabilitating throughout the offseason, he started two games and finished the season with three sacks.  Thomas – who on occasion lined up at tackle in some situations – finished last season with a career-high 35 tackles, and played extensively in running situations.  He also tied for fourth on the team with nine quarterback pressures.

The ability to be ready on short notice is something Thomas said he developed very quickly upon joining the Colts.  “I don’t know if it’s anything I really worked on except for all of a sudden, when I got to the league, I had to be on point whenever they asked me to be,” Thomas said.  “I didn’t have the luxury like I did in college where I could play and weather the hot periods and the cold periods.  I think it happened during camp when I realized what I had to do.  I knew in order to make the team I had to be 100 percent every play, so when the season started, I was used to performing that way.”

Already, Thomas has been around longer than many have expected when he left Syracuse.  He was not selected in the 2004 draft, but he impressed Colts coaches and personnel officials immediately.  Now, entering his fourth season, he is among the veterans on an improving defense.  “It’s real hard to believe,” Thomas said.  “I see some of the rookies now and it doesn’t seem like too long ago that I came in and was kind of lost and had to get caught up on everything.  But it goes by quickly.

“Your rookie year, it’s just kind of getting reps here and there.  Every year, it kind of slips by you.  Now, I kind of know my role.  I’m a solid role player.  I contribute.  Each year, I get better and that’s really my role.  “To be the third defensive end behind two Pro Bowl-caliber defensive ends – I’m all right with that.”  Thomas said he has learned from both DE’s Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and said he has seen improvements in his own game during the same span.  And if he has to keep it going behind two quality players, Thomas said that’s something with which he can live – and a situation in which he said he can continue to prosper under. 

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