NFL teams are moving into phase three of the offseason with Organized Team Activities. These OTA’s allow rookies and free-agent signings to get in the field with their new teams for the first time, coaches to tinker with offenses and defenses and to see what type of shape everyone is in.
Going into these OTA’s, there are several Mountaineers who are trying to make impressions with their new teams or are looking to make a leap to the next level. Information from these OTA’s are sometimes limited by the teams as they either don’t allow the media in at all or only let them view practices for limited amounts of time.
Today, we take a look at three second-year players and start out with J.T. Thomas and the Bears.
J.T. Thomas – Chicago Bears
Thomas was a sixth round pick by the Bears last season. He spent the season on IR with a back injury. Head coach Lovie Smith often uses IR as sort of ‘redshirt’ year for rookies. The team did not draft a LB in this year’s draft, and there is a good chance that Thomas can make the team.
Thomas made some news in the offseason for getting arrested on misdemeanor drug charges. Thomas has been on the field with the Bears during these OTA’s, and it was announced that he will likely get the drug charges dismissed if he completes some classes by August 29.
“You just come out, start all over again and just work your way through it,” Thomas said. “You have to deal with issues that come up. You just try to stay focused on your main goal, and that’s being a positive teammate and contributing the best way I can.
“Everything is good to go,” he said. “That’s why I’m out here with my teammates. When you go through things like that, you just have to refocus, and I’m honed in and growing up. Now things are going smoothly.”
Brandon Hogan – Carolina Panthers
We let you know the other day about the chances Hogan has to start at corner for the Panthers going into his first full season after sitting out most of his rookie season. At the first day of Panther OTA’s, Hogan played with both the 1st and 2nd team defenses at right cornerback opposite of Chris Gamble. The job will not be given to Hogan although many expect him take the reins.
He revealed yesterday that his knee is still not fully healed from ACL surgery, but it’s getting there.
“I think I’m right about there. I still have some swelling, some pain sometimes,” Hogan said. “But I just try to push through it and see how it feels afterward, and ice it and everything.”
Robert Sands - Cincinnati Bengals
Like Hogan, Robert Sands made few appearances on the field in his rookie season. Now, Sands has a shot to start after the Bengals let former starter Chris Crocker go in free-agency. On the first day of OTA’s, Sands lined up with the 1st-team defense.
If you have any questions on other former Mountaineers, ask us in the comments below.