Share this article

print logo

A-TRAIN MAKES A STOP AT THE RALPH

He's a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who lost his job to a younger, higher-regarded player and is looking for a fresh start with a new team.

We're not talking about Travis Henry. It's Anthony Thomas, who paid the Buffalo Bills a visit Thursday.

The Bills' inability to trade Henry hasn't stopped them from looking at potential replacements. Thomas, who spent the last four seasons with the Chicago Bears, is the second veteran running back to come to town. Garrison Hearst visited One Bills Drive a few weeks ago.

Talking to Thomas and Hearst and drafting Louisville's Lionel Gates seem to indicate the Bills still intend to trade Henry before the season. The Bills also may not be sold on second-year pro Shaud Williams as the primary backup to starter Willis McGahee.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Thomas is a big back well-suited for the Bills' ball-control running game. He would give the team an experienced backup who could step in as an emergency starter if needed.

Known as the A-Train, Thomas is a physical back who breaks tackles and finishes every run. He lacks top-end speed but hits the hole quickly and has good vision and balance. He's also a good receiver.

"Things sound good right now," Thomas said of his meeting with the Bills' coaches and front-office people. "For the most part, I liked what I've seen right now."

Thomas left Buffalo without a contract offer, but one could come soon. Thomas said Henry's status will have no bearing on his decision.

"I really don't know his situation right now," said Thomas, 27. "I'm trying to make the best decision for me and my family right now.

"I'm willing to be a player here. I'm not going to say I'm going to be a backup or say I'm going to be a starter. They said they are going to give me the opportunity to play, so that's good enough for me."

A second-round draft pick out of Michigan, where he's the all-time leading rusher, Thomas was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by several publications in 2001. He ran for a Bears rookie-record 1,183 yards and scored seven touchdowns in 14 games (10 starts). He also set a team rookie mark with 188 yards in a game and established the NFL record for most touches by a rookie without a fumble with 300 (278 rushes and 22 receptions).

After a wrist injury limited Thomas to 721 yards in 12 games in 2002, he bounced back with 1,024 yards the following year. Thomas' 3,332 yards rank fifth in Bears history behind Walter Payton, Neal Anderson, Rick Casares and Gale Sayers.

But the Bears decided not to re-sign Thomas after he averaged a career-low 3.3 yards per carry and lost his starting job to Thomas Jones last season. The Bears also used the fourth overall pick in last week's draft on running back Cedric Benson of Texas.

Thomas said he has received offers from several teams and plans to make one more visit to an undisclosed club before huddling with his wife and making a decision.

Having former Bears teammates such as offensive linemen Mike Gandy and Chris Villarrial and fullback Daimon Shelton in Buffalo could sway Thomas, who dined with Gandy on Wednesday.

"I want to go to a team that wants me to come in and play and have fun," said Thomas. "(The Bills) seem like they are eager to have me here, and I'm eager to think about coming."
e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment