Long after this week's chill that brought Atlanta to a standstill warms, the three players will return to Georgia Tech's campus for another installment of their combined offseason training regimen. Even though Thomas has finally reached the Super Bowl and could play a large role in determining the winner, the work doesn't stop for the trio and the several other NFL players who comprise their workout cohort.
While there are many reasons for Thomas' success this season, his sessions with receivers like Green, the Cincinnati Bengals' 2011 first-round draft pick, have played a part in helping the journey take shape. Thomas admitted as much in this video from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during a Super Bowl media availability session in New Jersey on Wednesday.
"It's always competitive," Thomas said to the newspaper's NFL/Falcons reporter, D. Orlando Ledbetter, when asked about the offseason practices in Atlanta.
Thomas has been working with Johnson since getting drafted in 2010. Green, who was drafted a year later, eventually joined them, along with other receivers and defensive backs. It's primarily been working with Green and Johnson, though, that has helped Thomas hone his route-running skills and hone some of his abilities as a playmaker, he said.
"My first year training up there with Calvin, I wasn't the best route runner," Thomas said on the video. "It's just being around him and watching him run routes because he's a big guy. All of us are big guys. They say some big guys can't run routes. So being around him and A.J. and seeing the things that they do helps my game out, as well.
"We're some of the best players in the league. We're always competing against each other and trying to get better with each other."
Green's routes have been an issue in Cincinnati recently. Many times this season he would ad lib by either cutting off or extending routes on options he thought Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton also saw. The improvisation would lead to what routinely looked like poor, non-fundamental routes on his part and underthrows and overthrows by Dalton. It all also led to interceptions.
The trio has a history that predates the NFL. While Green and Johnson got to know one another better from the workouts, they still had common bonds before Green became a professional player. In college, Green and Thomas were contemporaries, playing at rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech, respectively. Johnson, also a Tech product, knew Thomas from when he would come back to campus in the first few years of his NFL career. In addition to Thomas and Johnson being from the state, Green currently has a residence in Atlanta and calls the city his offseason home.
In October when the Bengals and Lions were preparing for a game in Detroit, coach Marvin Lewis spoke about Green's relationship with Johnson.
"Calvin has been a great mentor to A.J., and they've been very close," Lewis said. "It's been great the way Calvin carries himself as a pro and as a man. It's very similar to A.J."
Now that Thomas has improved his route-running to the point that he and the Broncos have earned this Super Bowl trip, Lewis wouldn't be upset Green started patterning the postseason portion of his play after Thomas, too.