Lions see utility role for receiver Mike Thomas

Posted Nov 1, 2012

The first order of business for Thomas is to get up to speed with the scheme and the terminology, after that, the Lions will decide how to use him.

Newly acquired receiver Mike Thomas went through a bit of culture shock Thursday morning. Coming from the warm climate in Jacksonville, it was a rather cold welcoming to Detroit when the Lions decided to practice outdoors in the 42-degree temperature.

"Total climate change for me," Thomas said with a grin. "It was good."

The Lions traded for Thomas on Tuesday, giving up a future undisclosed draft pick to the Jaguars in the deal.

"Anytime you're losing it's not good from the top down," Thomas said of getting a fresh start with the Lions after the Jaguars' 1-6 start. "When you're losing the (locker room) is not (as) upbeat as it here with guys still in the mix and still having a chance."

The first order of business for Thomas is to get up to speed with the scheme and the terminology, after that, the Lions will decide how to use him. But Lions general manager Martin Mayhew sees a lot of uses for a player with Thomas' speed.

"Mike is an experienced receiver, adds to our veteran depth," Mayhew said. "I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of skill, been a very productive guy in his career.

"Very versatile player. I see him kind of as an offensive utility player for us and also a special teams guy. Coaches will decide how to use him, but he's a very talented guy who can help us win football games."

The Jaguars drafted Thomas in the fourth round in 2009 out of Arizona.

He's started 31 games in four seasons with 171 career catches for 1,768 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 48, 66 and 44 passes in his first three seasons in the league, and had 13 receptions so far this season in the Jaguars' 32nd-ranked passing offense.

He was also the primary punt returner for the Jaguars, and could potentially get a look in that role with the Lions.

"I think I'm pretty explosive and I can definitely help make plays and compliment what's already here," Thomas said. "Whatever role they see fit for me I'm going to try and digest it and accept it and make the most of it."

There could be the potential for Thomas to line up in the backfield and be in a role similar to Jahvid Best's in the passing game.

"I've seen him line up in the backfield," Mayhew said. "I've seen him line up in the slot. I've seen him outside. As I said, punt returns, kickoff returns, he can do a lot of different things for us and he has experience making plays."

Mostly, though, Thomas adds depth to receiving corps and the slot position. After losing Nate Burleson to a broken leg in Chicago, the Lions had only one true slot receiver in rookie Ryan Broyles before Thomas was acquired.

"My thing is don't want to put too much on a guy's plate from the get go," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "See once he gets comfortable in the system, then we'll see what some of the type things he can do that he did in his past and try to apply those to our offense."

The Lions travel down to Jacksonville Sunday and that presents an odd situation for Thomas, having to play against the same guys who were his teammates just two days ago.

"It hasn't hit me yet," he said of returning to Jacksonville. "It probably won't hit me until Sunday when I get back there and get on the field and see those guys. It's a little bit of whirlwind but it's part of it and I can handle it."

Thomas said the Lions defense has yet to grill him about the Jaguars offense in hopes of getting any keys to helping them on Sunday. He expects it's coming, though.

"(The Jaguars) know that I know pretty much everything, so I'm pretty sure they'll have different verbiage and different signals," he said.

Jaguars head coach Mike Mularky said in a conference call this week that he's never been involved in a situation like this before with a player being traded the same week the two teams play.

"You know, he hadn't heard anything for this game plan," Mularky said of Thomas.

"It's hard to give a lot of information and then for a defense to not only know what they're doing and then process what the offense is doing and have to adjust to it all in a short amount of time. That's a very difficult thing to be able to do."

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said it was certainly possible for Thomas to have a quick turnaround and be ready to play by Sunday.

"We've gotten plenty of players up to speed that quickly," he said. "We'll just wait and see when we get to the end of the week. It's a possibility."