It did not take long to see Wednesday that Chiefs receiver/return man De’Anthony Thomas, who spoke to media members for the first time in more than six months, was not going to get into the reasons for his mysterious disappearance from the team last December.
The first question he fielded was a general one about what happened last December. Thomas missed the final six games of the regular season, with four of them directly related to a concussion he sustained Nov. 22 in a 33-3 win over the San Diego Chargers. When he was cleared from the concussion in December, he was placed on the non-football injury list and missed the final two games.
“It’s a new year, I don’t even know what happened,” Thomas said.
And on and on it went, for at least two more questions related to that topic, as Thomas continued to stress that it’s a new year and he’s looking to the future, not the past.
The closest thing the Chiefs have come to providing an explanation for his absence came when coach Andy Reid explained after the Cleveland game in late December that Thomas, who was cleared for that game but did not play, was dealing with some personal issues.
Thomas, however, tweeted in late January that he was still feeling the effects of the concussion, which seemed to at least shed some additional light on the situation, though Reid quickly shut that down in an interview with 610 Sports Radio.
“He seemed fine when he was here,” Reid said at the time. “That wasn’t what he told me why things ended that way. So I’m not going to get into all that, but it wasn’t concussion-related.”
And on Wednesday, Thomas fell in line when asked if his absence for those final two games was because of the concussion.
“Not at all,” Thomas said. “It was just a time where … like I said, it’s just a new year and I’m not really focused on what happened last year.”
However, the 5-foot-8, 176-pound Thomas did make a couple other things clear, one of which is that he’s never really taken a hit like the one that caused him to leave the San Diego game with the concussion.
“It wasn’t even the hit, it was the ground,” Thomas said. “I haven’t even really been touched. In college, I really didn’t get tackled that much. And in the pros, I didn’t really get tackled that much either. So it’s all about putting me in the right position and getting me in space and letting my ability show.”
Most importantly, Thomas also made it clear that he does love football and wants to continue playing, so much so that he got noticeably animated when asked whether his passion for the game is still there.
“Do I love football? I’m from south-central Los Angeles,” he said. “Football is everything to me.”
Thomas elaborated when asked if there was ever a moment when he considered quitting.
“Never, never,” Thomas said. “I’m going to say it again. I’m from south-central Los Angeles. Either you’re going to play football there or go down the wrong path. I used football as my motivation to get somewhere, to make me successful. I ended up going to Oregon, and that’s what really changed my life. I made my name for myself there, and now I’m coming to Kansas City to do the same thing.”
Thomas added that he wants fans to know that he’s feeling great.
“I’m excellent,” he said. “I’m doing great, I’m out there working hard, I’m showing people what I can do. Nothing has changed. I’m still doing me, I’ve been doing me from day one, and it’s going to be a great year.”
In the same vein, Thomas insisted that even after the concussion, he would not be gun-shy about getting hit once the pads come on in July and August.
“Not at all,” he said. “No.”
It would be in Thomas’ best interest not to be. The Chiefs selected another speedy returner in Tyreek Hill, despite Hill’s off-field issues. Hill, who is bulkier than Thomas at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, has starred in the Chiefs’ first eight offseason practices, has flashed his 4.25 speed on returns, all while consistently displaying soft hands and ball-tracking ability as a receiver.
Interestingly, while both showcase electric speed, Thomas said he did not see many similarities between himself and Hill.
“I feel like I’m a lot different,” Thomas said. “I’m just me. I’m De’Anthony. I feel like I’m a lot different than the rookie. Look at my film, look what I’ve done, look at my past.”
Thomas does have a track record in the NFL that Hill does not. Last season, Thomas caught 17 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and rushed nine times for 34 yards and a touchdown, while also averaging 7.8 yards per punt return (39th in the league) and 23 yards per kick return (58th in the league).
But Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2014, still has a fight on his hands over the next several months as he strives to prove he can be a consistent contributor, especially after an uncertain end to last season that he didn’t want to get into Wednesday.
“A lot of people at my age are just getting to the league, so I feel like I’m ahead of a lot of guys,” said Thomas, who was one of the youngest players in his draft class. “It’s going to be a great year for me to just stay healthy and show people my ability and what I do.”