FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — - New England Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas acknowledges without hesitation that this has been the most trying season of his 10-year career, marred by a public run-in with coach Bill Belichick and his least productive statistics since he was a rookie.
But when presented with a hypothetical mulligan regarding his 2007 free agency choice as his current team prepares to face his former squad in the Ravens, he says he wouldn't change a thing.
"I'm fine with how it turned out," Thomas said. "Look at the first year I got here. We went 16-0. So you can't look at this year and say I wish I would have stayed [in Baltimore]. I think I made the right decision. You have ups and downs in everything that you do, so you just take the good with the bad."
Thomas built his name with the Ravens as a game-changing, disruptive force equally adept at making a drive-killing sack and picking off a pass while dropping in coverage. For as much trouble as Thomas caused defenses back then, he seems to baffle the coaches and fans here in New England with equal vigor today.
In 14 games this season, Thomas has 31 tackles and three sacks, his lowest totals since he was a special teams ace on the 2000 championship Ravens team.
During his heyday with the Ravens, Thomas recorded about 300 tackles, intercepted four passes, forced eight fumbles and recovered five fumbles from 2004 to 2006. In the three ensuing years with New England, he never made 100 tackles in a season, and he has intercepted one pass and forced just two fumbles.
Rock bottom came earlier this year.
He was a healthy scratch against the Tennessee Titans in October. Two months later, Thomas and three others were late to practice because of weather-related traffic problems. Belichick sent all the players, including Randy Moss, home when they arrived at the team's facility, leading Thomas to lambaste the coach's decision the next day. Thomas was scratched again from the lineup when the team played the Carolina Panthers that Sunday. Moss and the others played.
"That's done and over with. You don't forget it. But you move on to the playoffs," Thomas said. "When the season is over, you can address it then."
What Thomas is looking to take care of now is turning around this season with strong playoffs, despite the perplexing way some NFL observers believe he is being used.
At times it seems as though Thomas is a mismatch in this defensive scheme. He was moved to middle linebacker two years ago before shifting back outside.
"I try not to compare to the past because it's a totally different defense, different position. I started out [in New England] at middle linebacker, then went outside," Thomas said. "Techniques change. It's all a learning process."
Said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain: "I think he's very valuable. His presence alone definitely adds to our intimidation factor; he's just a big guy. But I think he's proven. He's made a lot of plays in his career. Right now, everybody's level of play is going to go up, and if his game goes up, he is one of the most dominant players in the game. So if we get that out of him, we will be sitting pretty."