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Quick Starter: Thomas Earns Nod After One Week


During his high school career at Imperial (Calif.) High, his college career at UCLA or his three NFL years with the St. Louis Rams, had a team ever thrown linebacker Robert Thomas into the fire like the Green Bay Packers?

"Never," said Thomas, grinning at his ability to quickly mesh with his new team.

A week after joining the Packers, Thomas started at weakside linebacker against the Detroit Lions on Sunday and recorded four tackles.

"For the first time out of the blocks, he did a good job," head coach Mike Sherman said.

Thomas played an integral role in limiting a strong Lions running game to 3.3 yards-a-carry. Three of his tackles were solo. He stopped running back Kevin Jones for three yards and one yard up the middle in the first quarter and for three yards off left tackle in the fourth quarter.

In making the transition from the Rams defense to the Packers defense, he faced a steep learning curve. The Rams play more eight-man fronts and feature different terminology for each play while the Packers run a classic seven-man front with defensive ends spread out wide and linebackers stacked behind the defensive line.

"It's a totally different scheme," Thomas said.

To prepare for last Sunday's game, he went through a crash course. Thomas arrived in Green Bay, Wis. on Sunday, Sept. 4th and studied his new playbook at Lambeau Field until 11 p.m. He spent all of Monday watching film before practicing with the team at 6:15 p.m.

Another week of studying film, meeting with the coaches and acclimating to his new surroundings will help as he prepares for the Cleveland Browns.

"It's going be a huge difference," he said.

Sherman praised the quickness of the 6-0, 233 player but said he did make a few mental errors. If he becomes more comfortable in the Packers' defense, Thomas could receive even more playing time on passing downs. Rookie linebacker Roy Manning replaced him on those downs during Sunday's game.

The Packers' trade of cornerback Chris Johnson for Thomas' services should serve as a coup. For Johnson, an injury prone cornerback who may not have made their active roster, the Packers received a speedy 25-year-old linebacker with 32 career starts.

And he should only perform better by the week.

"I did pretty well for being here four or five days," Thomas said. "I still have a long ways to go."

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