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Mike Shanahan: Devin Thomas was no Anthony Armstrong

October 11, 2010 - 04:11 PM
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Mike Shanahan said Devin Thomas still has the potential to be a good NFL player, but that his dedication wasn't strong enough to help him maintain a spot on the Redskins' roster. (Photo: Associated Press)

When asked about the reasons the Washington Redskins cut former second-round pick Devin Thomas on Saturday, Mike Shanahan today cited a lack of total dedication on Thomas' part and went out of his way to praise Anthony Armstrong.

The Redskins waived Thomas -- the 34th pick of the 2008 draft -- on Saturday to make room for Keiland Williams, an undrafted rookie running back, whose skills as a third-down back were needed with Clinton Portis injured.

Shanahan on Sunday said that Thomas, "needed to do to be a pro football player, both on and off the field." When asked today to further elaborate on his view of Thomas' lack of professionalism, Shanahan said that Thomas still has a chance to be a player in the NFL, just not with the Redskins at this point.

"I think he can still play in the National Football League. But I’ve got to keep our top five wide receivers and we lost a running back. Devin was the next guy to go," Shanahan said. "Does that mean he can’t play in the National Football League? Absolutely not. Does it mean I don’t like Devin? Absolutely not. I encouraged Devin and said, ‘You’re a big kid, you’re strong, you’ve got a lot of speed. You want to get to the next level, you’ve got to get in a heck of an offseason program and be the best you can be. If you want to be good, you’re gonna be good. But you’ve got to make a total commitment. In this league it’s not based on talent, it’s based on people working extremely hard.’ I’ve got some strong feelings for Devin, and I like him quite a bit. I was being honest with him and hopefully he takes advantage of that down the road."

By cutting Thomas, the Redskins parted ways with their top kick returner, who was averaging 28 yards a return, which ranked fifth in the league among players with at least 10 returns. 

But Shanahan said he has confidence in all of the other players that have the capability to return kicks, and that he believes because of the players blocking downfield, any of the return men can be effective.

Then Shanahan unprompted outlined what he looks for in a player and compare the elements that Armstrong -- an undrafted first-year player, who bounced around in arena football leagues and practice squads before getting his break this year -- brings to the team in contrast to Thomas.

"I look at somebody’s total game, not just special teams play.One of the great things about Armstrong, is the guy would make plays. Every position you put him at," Shanahan said of Armstrong, who on Sunday had a 48-yard touchdown reception. "I knew Armstrong was going to be a football player. It was too important to him. He loves to play. How can a guy that weighs 180 pounds make tackles every time? How’s he beat people five yards down the field? The guy’s a competitor, he wants to play, he’s here every day. He knows all three positions. He’ll play at every special teams position you put him at. Those guys help you win, and that’s why you have to get a pecking order -- first, second third, fourth, fifth, whatever it may be -- and then you’ve got to go with whatever guys you think can help you win as a team. Not just talent." 

Thomas' former teammates when asked on Sunday about his release said they were surprised. Receiver Santana Moss said for the most part, he saw Thomas' exit coming.

"I'm surprised a little bit, but then again, you never know. I just feel like where Devin stood on this team, there was a lot he wasn't doing. He wasn't playing receiver, but was playing a lot of special teams. With a guy like that, that's so talented and not playing receiver, then something's wrong," Moss said. "But, everything happens for a reason. His situation could be better going somewhere else and getting a fresh start. I feel like he can be that guy, it was just some of the things here he had got himself in a hole and it wasn't a place he could climb out of."

What exactly those "things" were, are unclear, but recently a picture of him snoozing in a meeting surfaced on twitter, and Thomas in the past drew criticism for his offseason modeling projects and also for his role in a music video with Fantasia.

Thomas didn't have to wait long to get his fresh start, however. This afternoon he was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers.

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