While the award for least productive offseason by a member of the Washington Redskins goes to defensive/nose/disgruntled tackle Albert Haynesworth in a landslide, not everyone in the burgundy and gold followed the same script.
Let’s see: The front office was busy emulating their favorite Extreme Makeover episodes, the head coach and the offensive coordinator were re-enacting The Apprentice and the quarterback took a handful of his teammates to Hell’s Kitchen … er … Hell Week.
But the player who had the busiest offseason was receiver Devin Thomas, who has officially become the Snoop Dogg of the Redskins roster (which, to put it kindly, means he’ll happily show up anywhere there’s a combination of hot chicks, video cameras and a party atmosphere.)
Here’s a quick rundown of everywhere Thomas has appeared since the 2009 season mercifully ended:
- Back in February, half-nude photos of Thomas appeared on a website called Young, Black and Fabulous (coincidentally, my nickname in college). I’m guessing the shoot was sprung on him at the last moment because most of the shots were taken before he even had a chance to get out of bed.
- In June, former American Idol contestant Fantasia released her single "Bittersweet" off of her new album Back To Me with a video that featured … you guessed it … everyone’s favorite third-year receiver.
- More recently, Thomas spent some time with another receiver who enjoys the spotlight – Cincinnati Bengals wide out/Dancin’ with the Stars contestant Chad Ochocinco. While the dynamic duo was a Will Ferrell cameo away from filming a Hollywood blockbuster, it turns out the focus of the get-together was actually football related.
- And finally, just days before the start of training camp, Thomas joined his new quarterback, Donovan McNabb, out in Arizona for a week’s worth of bonding.
Simply put – every time you read an article this offseason about a Redskins player that didn’t use phrases such as "unhappy," "nose tackle," or "lawsuit," chances are it was about Thomas.
So it should come as no surprise that, on the first day of training camp, I was joking with a handful of Redskins players about filming a music video for my soon-to-be-release musical debut titled, "Sportsboyz II Men," Santana Moss cheerfully jumped in and said, "Talk to Devin. He’s our diva."
With all that in mind, I had to catch up with the diva. If for no other reason than to see how one player can juggle so many different extracurricular activities while also trying to absorb an entirely new offense.
Brian Murphy: How was your offseason?
Devin Thomas: It’s been great. I’ve been working hard, man. Doing what I need to do and doing a little bit of fun stuff on the side also. It’s been exciting and there’s been a lot of big stuff happening with me.
Murf: I understand your mindset that this is a "put up or shut up" season for you and that you’re convinced you can work hard and play hard at the same time. But there are definitely critics out there who see you doing the modeling stuff, the music video, photos of you out at nightclubs and they’re asking if your priorities aren’t out of whack with all of these possible distractions. What do you say to those people?
DT: You know, everyone’s going to have their own opinion about the things that I do, but I can’t really listen to that. I know what I have to do. I know where my job is at and I know where I’m making my money at. That’s here at Redskins Park. Like you said, this is my year. Trust me, I’m not the type of guy who is going to blow my opportunity. I know exactly what I need to do and, believe me, I’m focused. Anyone with questions, they’ll be able to see for themselves soon enough.
Murf: The funny thing is, I’d argue that you did manage to spend more of your downtime focusing on football – working out with Chad Ochocinco and participating in Hell Week with your teammates. Let’s start with the first part of that. What did you get out of your time with Chad?
DT: Being able to see where his confidence and swagger comes from. I was really able to see how hard he works to do it. I got with my trainer to work with Ocho and they’re working out at 6 a.m. First thing in the morning, before anyone else is even up, he’s out there working hard. I jumped in with him and was able to see how he runs his routes. We worked the cone drills. I saw why he’s so confident and why he’s always talking trash. The guy works so hard, he deserves to talk trash like that.
Murf: Did he give you pointers or point out areas in your game he thinks you should work on?
DT: No, he pretty much led by example. There wasn’t much talking like that. He just showed me how he does his thing. He put in his hard work and I just followed his lead. Hopefully it’ll carry over into the regular season.
Murf: As far as your guy’s weekend in Arizona, to me, that was more about getting to know McNabb and him developing some chemistry and a comfort level with his new receivers than anything else. That sound about right?
DT: It was cool, man. That was our second time doing it. I was able to hang out with McNabb in Philly when he had his party and his camp out there for a weekend, so this was our second go-around. It was for a whole week and it was fun. I got to see how he trains and got to know him a little bit better. We were sitting around his new house out in Arizona and just chatting. It was cool.
With all of the changes that have taken place on and off the field for Thomas and the Redskins this offseason, he’s genuinely excited for the 2010 season. While he definitely chose an unlikely route, Thomas is confident that everything he’s experienced since the Jim Zorn era ended will help him silence his critics.
"I’m ready," he said. "I’m ready to make plays. I’m ready to take everything I’ve learned and become one of the main contributors on offense."
To his credit, Thomas has been one of the standouts during the first week of training camp. Even his head coach, Mike Shanahan, praised the 23-year-old, saying, "He’s had a couple of good days."
Asked what Thomas has to do to earn a spot in the starting lineup, Shanahan didn’t hesitate.
"He has to compete every day," he said. "He has to win the position. He has to be better than the guys who are in front of him consistently. That's how you win a position. The last couple of days he has done just that, he's gone out there and made some plays. It's a combination of everything. Not just the passing game, but the running game. Feel comfortable with what we're doing and knowing where to line up. You know, just going out there and giving everything you have."
Thomas is quickly becoming accustomed to a playmaker’s lifestyle away from the game. If he wants to continue down that path, now it’s on him to start turning heads on the field.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. I guess we’ll have to tune in next week to see how the story unfolds.