Shortly before Phillip Thomas suffered a season-ending injury last summer, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris expressed his pleasure over his performance. After one play in training camp, Morris let it be known, saying to no one in particular, "He's starting to figure this [bleep] out."
And then Thomas, a rookie, was done, injuring his Lisfranc in the preseason opener. He needed surgery and that put him on a cross-your-fingers-path back to the player he was when the Washington Redskins drafted him in the fourth round.
Thomas obviously plans to contend for a starting job with Brandon Meriweather. First, though, comes questions about his health.
"Right now I'm feeling great," said Thomas, who returned to organized team activities Monday along with his teammates. The next session open to the media is Wednesday. "I'm 100 percent. Running around. I feel I'm moving like I was before with no hesitation and not second-guessing myself now."
Lisfranc injuries are tricky, especially when a player needs surgery. Here's a good explanation of this injury from ESPN medical analyst Stephania Bell. One point she made: "It's critical to the long-term foot health of any player who suffers this type of injury that complete healing occurs prior to a return to play, hence the slow progression, even when the player says he feels fine."
Thomas never returned last year and has had a full offseason. He knows he has a ways to go and the true test occurs in August, when the pads come on and the preseason games begin.
For now, all is good.
"At first I heard all the things about this Lisfranc injury and it spooked me," he said. "I stayed out here the whole four months in the offseason. I feel good out there."
Another result of the injury: Thomas is bigger. Not by a lot, but he added around five pounds -- all in upper body strength. He couldn't focus on his legs for a while, so he concentrated on other areas. The extra size was noticeable.
"It's helping me just being strong at the point [of attack]," he said. "Tight ends coming to block, I can [keep] them off me. Just the little things."
Thomas showed a little bit during the OTAs open to the media last week, making a diving interception. While Morris was upbeat over Thomas last summer, he'll still have to learn to operate at game speed and prove he can handle the role. There's a difference between starting to get it and playing like you have it.
"He's just getting back in the flow," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Between he and Meriweather, we expect good things from that safety spot."