Thomas, 33, knew for months that he needed surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle he played through during a large portion of the 2012 season. When Thomas underwent the procedure roughly six weeks ago in Alabama, doctors discovered that the former Alabama-Birmingham linebacker also suffered a torn tendon in his shoulder. It could be months before the unrestricted free agent is cleared by doctors to return to the field.
“If I sign the vet minimum for one year, I wouldn't even pass the physical,” Thomas told the Daily News.
Thomas, a first-round pick in 2002, opened his career as a defensive end but moved to outside linebacker in 2006 when the Jets switched to a 3-4 defense. During the 2006 season, Thomas arguably posted the best numbers of his career when he recorded 8.5 sacks and 77 tackles. He followed it up with consecutive 50-tackle seasons in 2008 and 2009.
In recent seasons, though, Thomas has been hampered by injuries. Thomas appeared in four games in 2011 after suffering a season-ending torn Achilles in early-October. Last season, the Jets released Thomas after he tweaked his hamstring in late-September. Thomas (6-4, 260) re-signed with the Jets two days later and finished the season with 24 tackles in 12 games.
Even if Thomas progresses quicker than expected in his recovery, he may not return to the Jets. Rex Ryan is spearheading a youth movement on defense. The Jets ended the 2012 regular season with five defensive starters over the age of 30. Ryan's team is about $12 million under the cap, according to Spotrac.com. Thomas is the longest tenured player on the Jets.
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