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SmashMouth 08-06-2010 10:35 AM

New Orleans Saints tight end David Thomas fills whatever role the offense asks of him- asked to be Long Snapper
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David Thomas played two starring roles for the New Orleans Saints last season.

Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints tight end David Thomas has been versatile in the team's offense.
He served as the top tight end while Jeremy Shockey dealt with knee and toe injuries, and Thomas played often at fullback after Heath Evans was lost for the season with a knee injury against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 25.
Thomas isn't sure what his role will be this season, but he used one word repeatedly to describe what he wants to be: versatile.
"Our offense is very multiple, so there's always different things that they're asking the tight ends to do, " said Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 248-pounder from Texas.
Thomas has spent much of training camp working with the first team at tight end, especially with Shockey missing seven practices with knee soreness. Thomas also has served as the primary tight end on the second team.
On a few occasions Thursday he motioned from tight end into the backfield at fullback.
Thomas also stayed after practice Thursday to work on his receiving skills by catching a few balls from a JUGS machine.
Saints Coach Sean Payton said he doesn't have a specific role in mind for Thomas, 27.
"We'll see. I thought he played a significant role for us a year ago, " Payton said. "He's got versatility. You know exactly what you have with the player, which is a good thing."
Thomas may not play as much fullback as he did last season. Evans is back from injury, although the coaching staff is bringing him along slowly.
Thomas said he thinks his role in the offense will change week by week.
"Last year we had some guys go down, and it just kind of went back and forth, " he said. "It just kind of depends on the health of the team and the game plan for the week."
Thomas proved to be a helpful target for Drew Brees in 2009. He started eight of the 15 games he played, catching 35 passes for 356 yards and one touchdown and averaging 10.2 yards per catch.
In three previous seasons with the New England Patriots, Thomas caught only 21 passes for 261 yards.
Thomas' best game of the season came when he filled in for Shockey against Dallas in Week 15. He had eight receptions for 77 yards in the Saints' 24-17 home loss.
"You hope you have the depth at the position. Certainly with Dave's experience, he's a smart player, " Payton said. "There's a pretty good mix there. Some younger players along with veteran players."
Shockey returned to practice Thursday, but Thomas still worked with the first-team offense, occasionally with Shockey in at the same time. At times, Shockey split out wide while Thomas stayed in tight.
Thomas said Shockey has been a mentor to him since he arrived in a trade from New England last season.
"When I first got here, he really helped me a lot with learning the offense and a lot of things that they expect from the tight ends here, that he really just took me under his wing and showed me, " Thomas said. "He's become a good friend, and he's a great teacher."
The Saints drafted Jimmy Graham out of Miami to help bolster the tight end corps. Graham only played one year of football at Miami after playing four years of basketball.
Thomas said he is trying to mentor Graham like Shockey did for him.
"He's been trying to learn a lot from everybody, really, " Thomas said. "He has worked really hard to get better. You see every day him learning new things and trying new things. It's really encouraging, the progress he's making."
Thomas also has added another job -- he spent time after Thursday's practice working at long snapper with Jason Kyle. Kyle is the lone long snapper on the roster after Clint Gresham was let go.
Thomas, who is also on the field goal team, said the coaches approached him about long snapping this week.
"I'm trying to be versatile, " he said. "If they need somebody to step in there, somebody goes down, they're seeing what guys on the team can do it."
Thomas seems to enjoy the multiple roles -- even the latest addition.
"I love just playing football, " he said. "Whether that's lining up as a receiver or fullback or tight end, running routes, run blocking, whatever it is, I just enjoy being out there."

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the-commish 08-06-2010 02:44 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints tight end David Thomas fills whatever role the offense asks of him- asked to be Long Snapper
Dave Thomas is an extremely valuable player fort the Saints. Remember last season when Heath Evans got hurt? It was primarily Dave Thomas who played H-Back in place of Evans.

If he can be an effective long snapper, the Saints could have another position to use somewhere else. Is that why they cut Clint Gresham?

QBREES9 08-06-2010 10:43 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints tight end David Thomas fills whatever role the offense asks of him- asked to be Long Snapper
David ( Utility Man ) Thomas, being able to do more that one thing is key.

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