New York Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas is back in action.
“I feel like a young kid again,” Bryan Thomas said recently.
In 2011, Thomas was put on injured reserve after injuring his Achilles in Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens. He underwent surgery to repair the Achilles, and then underwent shoulder surgery for a nagging injury after the season.
Prior to 2011, Thomas, now in his 11th season, had not missed a game since 2004. Not including the games in 2011, he has missed a total of just three games since being selected by the Jets in the first round of the 2002 draft.
“I tell my teammates all the time: I'm so happy to be back,” Thomas said. “Watching games on TV, it hurt. I wanted to be out there with them. Out there helping them. Win together, lose together, however it is. It's the camaraderie, just being with the guys and I missed that."
Now the longest tenured member of the Jets, Thomas described how he's matured and evolved most over his first ten years.
"Getting smarter. The older you get, the smarter you have to get. Knowing the defense inside and out.
“Take this defense for example, you have to know pretty much everything. Know where your help is. You have to know where your outside help is. You have to know where your inside help is. You have to know what your defensive end is doing. You have to know what your three-technique is doing. You have to know what everybody's doing."
It's that evolution, learning to play smarter, focusing more on film study and working on the smaller details that Thomas thinks has helped him remain in the league.
“I've seen some of the best athletes come through here,” Thomas said. “But they couldn't make it because they weren't a pro. They didn't study, they didn't do the things off the field to get better, but they were great athletes. And that's what it's all about, being a pro."
Thomas named former Jets DE Shaun Ellis, the first of the team's four first-round picks in 2000, as being his longtime mentor and the person who taught him how to be a pro.
“To this day, I still talk to him. Out of everybody he's been the one player who helped me the most."
And now that he's finally returned to action?