DT Thomas grateful for second chance

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
8:09
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants are suffering through their fair share of injuries during training camp this year. Among the most glaring? Starting left tackle Will Beatty remains out with a sore back, starting linebacker Michael Boley is sidelined with a bad hamstring, and starting defensive tackle Chris Canty is still on the physically unable to perform list due to offseason knee surgery.

But in each case, the team has made savvy moves -- at least on paper -- to provide some veteran insurance.

On Tuesday, we highlighted Sean Locklear and Keith Rivers. Locklear, filling in for Beatty, has 82 career NFL starts with the Seahawks and Redskins. The Giants signed him as a free agent back in April.

Rivers, who's holding down Boley's spot, started 33 of the 35 games he played for the Bengals from 2008 to 2010. The Giants acquired him back in April as well, sending Cincinnati a fifth-round draft pick in return.

On Wednesday, head coach Tom Coughlin praised one of the team's newest additions: defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, formerly of the Denver Broncos.

"We’re anxious to see him play a little bit," Coughlin said. "It’s kind of a very, very interesting story for a guy who started and played 11 games last year."

Yes, Thomas did start 11 games for the Broncos last year. He spent five seasons there, after being drafted by the team in the fourth round back in 2007.

So why isn't Thomas still in Denver? Well, because he was seeking a long-term contract this past offseason, and the Broncos weren't interested in giving him one.

"I was trying to get a longer deal and be there for a while," said Thomas. "Things didn’t work out that way. And here I am now."

But, in between Denver and New York, Thomas was scared that his NFL career was over. No other teams brought him in by the time training camps opened earlier this summer. Thomas was home in Jacksonville, wondering why his phone wasn't ringing.

"Definitely," said Thomas, when asked if he was surprised. "It (was) a real reality shock, 'cause I've seen players that I know are good players out of the league. And I’m thinking to myself, 'I might be one of those guys that can still go and nobody just picks you up.'"

But Thomas kept working out down in Florida, and he finally got the call he was hoping for last week -- from the defending Super Bowl champs, no less.

"I know this is a top program right here," said Thomas. "This defensive line is like one of the greatest D-lines I’ve been a part of. These older guys -- I’m a veteran myself, but I’ve still looked up to these guys, and (am) trying to learn things from them."

Earlier in camp, the Giants looked very deep at defensive tackle -- despite the fact that Canty remains on the PUP list. In addition to returnees Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard, the team had high hopes for veteran Shaun Rogers, acquired in the spring, and Marvin Austin, the team's second-round draft pick in 2011, who missed all of his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle.

But then Rogers was lost indefinitely with a blood clot in his left calf, Austin went down with a back injury, and suddenly the Giants looked thin on the interior.

Thomas signed with Big Blue last Thursday, and will get his first taste of game action in the Giants' third preseason tilt, Friday night against the Bears.

"It’s like starting over again," said Thomas, "Me being a rookie, going back out there basically just to prove (myself)."

When asked what makes Thomas "interesting," Coughlin responded, "Well, that he was available."

"They’re not easy to find, know what I mean?" the coach added, referring to healthy players with NFL starting experience.

One thing Coughlin can count on -- he'll get maximum effort from his new defensive tackle.

"I know it can be taken from me any day," said Thomas. "The NFL is basically a gift, you’re out here on the field, and you just gotta take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to you."
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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