FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots don’t have a great track record of getting production out of well-established veteran receivers looking to revive their careers.
From Eric Decker to Reggie Wayne, Nate Washington, Michael Jenkins and Torry Holt, New England has become something of a wide receiver graveyard throughout Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s 19-year run. Demaryius Thomas, who was activated off of the physically unable to perform list after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles in December, is trying to buck that trend. And the 31-year-old receiver is confident he still has something left in the tank.
“I still can go,” Thomas said Sunday.
Thomas has just two practices under his belt since coming off the PUP list. He participated in a non-padded practice Tuesday and a fully padded one Sunday.
“It felt good to be out with the guys,” Thomas said. “It’s been a while, about eight months now. A little rusty, but that’s what it’s about, training camp. Trying to put out my best ball so I can help out the squad.”
Thomas said he can still feel his explosion on some days but on others, he feels out of practice. He stressed it’s not the Achilles that’s bothering him but just getting back into the basics of football after so much time off.
“It’s just reacting,” Thomas said. “I ain’t been in front of defensive guys or just going play by play in eight months. I haven’t had on pads or a helmet in a while. So, that’s kind of the part I’m talking about.”
Thomas wasn’t surprised he was able to come back from his torn left Achilles so quickly because he recovered from a torn right Achilles in a similar timeframe back in 2011. He caught 32 passes for 551 yards with four touchdowns that season then put together five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with four Pro Bowl appearances.
Thomas hasn’t topped 1,000 yards since 2016. He caught 59 passes for 677 yards with five touchdowns last season in eight games with the Denver Broncos and seven with the Houston Texans.
Decker, Wayne, Washington, Jenkins and Holt never even made the Patriots roster. Given the timeframe of Thomas’ activation off of the PUP list so close to the start of the season, it would seem unfair for the Patriots to only give him two weeks to prove he can still help contribute. He has some competition for playing time with Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers also vying for snaps. So, the battle isn’t over even if Gordon makes the team.
Thumbnail photo via Doug Kyed/NESN