Belichick always admired Thomas

On Thursday, linebacker Zach Thomas signed a one-day contract with the Miami Dolphins so he could retire as a member of the organization. Thomas played for the Dolphins from 1996-2007, and over that time, he earned the respect of many opposing players and coaches.

Bill Belichick was one of them.

"Zach was one of those pure football guys that I really admire," Belichick said. "There aren't very many players who were as tough, productive and consistent."

When Thomas was a free agent in the 2008 offseason, Belichick brought him to Gillette Stadium for a visit. But Thomas signed with the Cowboys instead, playing one season in Dallas.

It was easy to see why Belichick was interested.

Using ESPN.com's game-split log as a resource, Thomas totaled 147 tackles against the Patriots from 2000-2007, Belichick's first eight years as New England head coach.

It's hard to imagine another opponent topping that total over that span.