|NFL DRAFT: Broncos give second chance to Gators defensive lineman|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 13:15|
Mike Shanahan is a coach willing to give one.
The Denver Broncos traded into the fourth round Sunday to take Thomas, a Florida defensive tackle who came into the NFL draft with a history of off-the-field problem.
``I really don't deserve anything,'' Thomas said. ``Denver gave me the chance.''
Thomas was suspended from the national champion Gators last season by coach Urban Meyer after failing two marijuana tests. He was reinstated but then kicked off the squad permanently in early November for violating curfew and drug rehab class provisions of a contract he signed to remain with the team.
``He has made mistakes and he knows that,'' said Shanahan, who drafted troubled Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in the third round in 2005. That move didn't work out as Clarett was cut in training camp. ``This guy (Thomas) has made some mistakes, but this guy has not done anything relative to the law or anything like that. He's a quality guy. He has made some mistakes. Hopefully he won't make any more.''
Not with the NFL's new get-tough policy on player conduct in place.
``I feel like I'm already on 2.9 strikes. Anything else I'm out,'' Thomas said.
Thomas has learned his lesson. He even said he's even willing to give back his signing bonus if he tests positive again.
``Most definitely,'' Thomas said. ``That's how serious I am. It (marijuana) is not a problem. I'm a good guy. I've never been in trouble with the law. It's just that marijuana situation that came up my senior year. That's a thing of the past.''
The Broncos gave Minnesota their final picks in the 2007 draft - a sixth rounder (No. 176 overall) and a seventh rounder (No. 233) - and also a third-round pick in 2008, to take Thomas in the fourth round (No. 121).
Shanahan didn't think it was too steep of a price to pay for a player he thought had first-round potential.
``If I did, I wouldn't have made it,'' Shanahan said.
It's the second straight day the Broncos moved up to get a Florida defensive lineman who'd tested positive for marijuana. Denver traded up four spots in the first round Saturday to take Jarvis Moss with the 17th pick. A positive drug test last season cost Moss one game.
``I addressed it like a man,'' said Moss, who arrived in town Sunday with fellow draftees Tim Crowder (56th) and Ryan Harris (70th). ``My mistake. I stepped out of line.''
Yet it served as a wake-up call for Moss.
``I think me failing my drug test was something that needed to happen,'' Moss said. ``It was something to open my eyes to the bigger picture. It really humbled me. I'm glad it happened to me when it did.''
Thomas felt the same way as his Gators teammate.
``Who knows? If everything worked out and I would've played and went on and been the No. 3 pick in the draft, I'd still probably think nothing can touch me and messed up in the NFL,'' Thomas said. ``I'd rather have it happen now than later. My mind is focused. I'm ready to get on that field and show that character issue is not me. You won't hear nothing but positive stuff out of Marcus Thomas.''
There's no disputing his talent. He had 14 sacks in 41 games at Florida.
``Marcus was hands down the best football player on our national championship team,'' Moss said. ``He's definitely a top-10 pick in my eyes.''
Shanahan said Clarett's washout caused him to cast a more skeptical eye on players with checkered histories. However, he still thinks some players deserve another opportunity.
``You have to sit down with a player, and that player has to understand what the rules and regulations are,'' Shanahan said. ``No one's bigger than the team. If he doesn't live by those guidelines, he won't be with us. But I'll be very surprised if he doesn't.''
Thomas explained the reason for his dismissal from the Gators. After a failed drug test, he signed a contract where he agreed to abide by a 7 p.m. curfew and go to rehab classes. After a month of playing well on the field, he figured the contract was no longer a big deal. He stopped going to rehab classes and then went out of town, both violating the contract he signed.
He painfully watched the Gators' win over Ohio State from a friend's house in Gainesville, Fla.
``I was really mad at myself that I let my team down and the coaches down,'' Thomas said.
Thomas interviewed with teams and tried to convince them he wasn't a problem player. He said he felt like only Denver and Tennessee were willing to give him a second chance.
``Denver felt like second chances should be deserved,'' Thomas said. ``I'm going to make a good story out of it. Happily ever after - that's what I'm going to try to do; (make a) Cinderella story out of it.''