BALTIMORE (AP) -During his seven years with the Baltimore Ravens, Adalius Thomas played in two Pro Bowls and started 73 games at linebacker for one of the league's best defensive units.
His fondest memory of his time in Baltimore, however, stems from a season in which he played in only three games and made just one tackle. The Ravens won the Super Bowl during Thomas' rookie year, and he's got the ring to prove it.
``I think that was one of the most fun times that we had, when Goose (Tony Siragusa) was there and everybody,'' Thomas recalled. ``Winning cures a lot. When you win the Super Bowl, I think, especially being your first year, I think that says a lot.''
The Ravens never got back to the Super Bowl, and Thomas left last March to sign a five-year, $37.5 deal with the New England Patriots. If playing for the NFL championship influenced his decision to choose the Patriots, Thomas appears to have made a wise career move.
New England (11-0) owned the best record in the league and the Ravens (4-7) had lost five straight entering Monday night's game in Baltimore.
After gaining popularity as an effective special teams player, Thomas developed into a standout linebacker and was witty enough to warrant his own radio show. But the man known affectionately as ``A.D.'' was unsure of the reception awaiting him during his first trip back to the place he once called home.
``Probably mixed. Some people think that I'm a jerk, some people think that I did what I had to do,'' he said. ``The fans were great with me when I was there. I respect the fans and however they feel. It's their opinion, they're entitled to it. I don't have anything but good things to say about Baltimore.''
The Ravens, quite simply, were not willing to compete against New England's offer. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome was concerned about the team's salary cap, but it's quite possible the Ravens underestimated Thomas' importance.
Baltimore, which led the NFL in defense last year, has already allowed more points than all of last season and has produced only 22 sacks compared to 60 in 2006. The only starter missing from last year's team is Adalius Thomas.
``He gave us a lot of fond memories,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. ``Like any player that comes back, it's always interesting when that happens. He's obviously doing very well with a team that's doing very well.''
With Baltimore, Thomas played outside linebacker and did everything from rush the quarterback to drop back 20 yards and cover for the safety. With the Patriots, he's been used almost exclusively inside. As a result, his sacks and tackles are down compared to last year.
But the Patriots are happy with his contribution to defense that would probably receive much more publicity if New England didn't have Tom Brady, Randy Moss and an offense averaging more than 40 points a game.
``Adalius has given us great flexibility defensively, and he has a great work ethic,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ``He's a smart guy, has a good sense of humor, brings a good attitude to the team and to his job.''
Thomas has never dressed in the visitor's locker room at the Ravens' stadium, and he's not sure if it will feel strange standing on the opposite sideline. But he expects to see a lot of friendly faces, even before he gets on the field.
``You know the people there, you know the guys, you're familiar with where you're going, you know the stadium,'' he said. ``You know the back way to get in, you know the escort people. Instead of a road trip, it will be like a home game on the road.''
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