KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Chiefs started practice on Tuesday, De'Anthony Thomas hadn't been in the NFL for nearly eight months, yet last than an hour later he was on the field returning kicks and catching passes, seemingly as if he never left in the first place.
“He just jumped right in,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He's ready to go, knows all the plays. He's a smart kid, knows all the plays, did a good job.”
Thomas received cheers from his teammates when he returned a kick during special team drills, but that wasn't all for the 5-8, 176-pound receiver. Thomas even got a few snaps and made a couple of catches with the first-team offense.
The Chiefs finalized a deal to bring back Thomas after practice started. Wide receiver Davon Grayson, whom the team waived with an injury designation, was on the field as an observer at the beginning of practice, but left before the arrival of Thomas. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes got a heads up what Thomas was on his way.
“They let me know before he got out there that he was going to be out there today,” Mahomes said. T'hat’s a fun guy, he goes out there and works hard and he’s going to go out there and he’ll be someone we utilize hopefully this season.”
Reid said the Chiefs stayed in touch with Thomas throughout the offseason. He finished last season on injured reserve after suffering a second fracture in his right leg from what the termed a “freak accident” during practice in October. Thomas initially fractured the leg during the 2017 season finale at Denver. The Chiefs wanted assurances that the injury had fully healed.
“He's been working out doing track workouts, he's in pretty good shape right now,” Reid said. “Leg looks good, that was a concern, but he's done well with it.”
But with special teams ace Marcus Kemp going down for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, this turned into the right time to bring Thomas back, Reid said.
“Just seeing the way numbers work and everything,” Reid said when asked why bring Thomas back now. “We stayed in touch with him, made sure he was good and healthy and bring him. That leg was obviously a concern, but they did the check up on him, he was doing great with it.”
Thomas had an eventful offseason starting almost immediately following the team's loss to New England in AFC Championship Game. On Jan. 26, authorities in Allen County, Kanas pulled Thomas over for driving 46 miles per hour in a 30-mile per hour zone. That also led to a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana.
An Allen County District Court judge closed the case on Aug. 8 with Thomas receiving deferred judgement for 12 months. He was fined a total of $664 by the court. Thomas will participate in a diversion treatment program, and if fulfills all his obligations without any more legal issues the marijuana charge will be dismissed, according to the Allen County district attorney's office.
Whether Thomas faces any suspension stemming from the case under the league's Personal Conduct Policy now rests with the NFL. Former Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris received a one-game suspension last season following an arrest in March 2017 on felony possession of marijuana, but later pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge that came with a two-day jail sentence. If the NFL doesn't act before the start of the season, Thomas would be available for Week 1.
Thomas spent the past five seasons with the Chiefs, catching 64 passes for 503 yards with four touchdowns in 55 games. On the ground he added another 186 yards rushing with two touchdowns. Mahomes said he believes Thomas can quickly re-establish himself within the offense.
“There’s definitely going to be stuff that’s different from last year that he has to learn but the good thing about him being here all last year, he was able to see a lot of the base stuff,” Mahomes said. “When we went back to those basic plays and ran those plays, he was able to get in there and get some work in.”