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Checking in with Donald Thomas

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Fourth-year offensive lineman Donald Thomas was a surprise starter in Saturday's win over the Dolphins, taking over at left guard when Logan Mankins was moved to left tackle.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Thomas, who entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice of the Dolphins in 2008, has been with Miami (2008-2009), Detroit (2010) and now New England (2011). The former UConn standout answered a few questions Tuesday:

After watching the film, how did things go Saturday?

"I'm real hard on myself about that. I'm not as happy as I was after the game. There is always room for improvement, some technique things to work on, to work the kinks out and get comfortable with. ... Pass pro, moving my feet better, staying in better position once I got a guy, finishing blocks better, stuff like that."

How much of that could be attributed to rust?

"That would be the easy way to justify my performance. I'm not even going to go there with it. I just have to play better overall."

It's been almost two seasons since you played that much in a game. Then this season, you were actually released here and then came back. What are your thoughts on how this has unfolded, with the possibility of starting here in crunch time?

"It's crazy, but playing this game, even in college, stuff like that happens all the time. There is a guy that can't play and all of a sudden you're thrust in to play at the drop of a dime. You just have to be ready to go. I didn't think it would happen that quick, but it did. I had to rise to the challenge."

How much do you appreciate playing again?

"It felt good. The weird part was that it was against guys I came into the league with. I was there for two years, and the first-team defense was going up against the first-team offense, and that's who I was going against when I was down in Miami. It was kind of ironic that was the team I started against two years later."

Are you looking forward to Sunday, knowing you will be starting?

"I don't know [that for sure]. My preparation has to go up to an even higher level and pay more attention to detail for this upcoming week if I'm going to be in there playing."

What has it been like, and what have you learned, playing with Brian Waters?

"Just how to have a long career. He picks up on stuff coaches say, and he knows the important key for the week, just paying attention to his opponent on runs and passes and stances, what their tendencies are. He knows them inside and out and I think that's what I'm trying to pick up from him."