A KEY COMPONENT

The re-signing of defensive end Josh Thomas allowed the Colts to retain a key member of their defensive line rotation, Head Coach Tony Dungy said Wednesday. A fifth-year veteran, Thomas re-signed with the team Wednesday morning.

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Thomas a Crucial Member of Line Rotation, Dungy Says

INDIANAPOLIS – To Tony Dungy, the move was imant.

Josh Thomas, a fifth-year veteran defensive end, has re-signed with the Colts, the team announced on Wednesday morning. He became the fourth player the Colts have re-signed in recent months, joining safety Bob Sanders, guard Ryan Lilja and tight end Dallas Clark.

The aforementioned players are starters.

Thomas, who joined the Colts as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2004, started seven games this past season, but ordinarily – i.e., when ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are healthy – he has been Freeney's top backup, starting nine of 52 career games.

Which Dungy said doesn't diminish his importance at all.

"He's been a big part of what we've done," Dungy said Wednesday. "Having guys who know what you're doing and how you do it and play hard, that's important. It was very good for us."

Thomas, who started seven of 15 games this past season, moved into a starting position when three-time Pro Bowl selection Dwight Freeney sustained a season-ending injury against the San Diego Chargers on November 11.

After starting the San Diego game in place of left defensive end Robert Mathis, Thomas started in place of Freeney at right end for two games, moved back to left end for three games, then returned to the right side for the Colts' playoff loss to San Diego.

That is the sort of versatility Thomas has shown throughout his four seasons, Dungy said.

"He's a different type of guy than Robert and Dwight," Dungy said of Thomas, who at 6-feet-5, 271 pounds is the Colts' biggest defensive end. "That's kind of how we've alternated him in there. In certain games, and certain times in the game, he's able to play left and right side, and play against bigger people – in running situations, especially. That definitely has helped us.

"He has been good for us. He's probably our best player playing over a tight end. He's been a very, very solid run defender."

Thomas this past season registered a career-high 55 tackles, 33 solos, with a sack, three passes defensed and a forced fumble. He finished the season with 14 quarterback pressures, third on the team behind Mathis (17) and Freeney (19).

In four seasons, he has 137 tackles, 92 solos, with six sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

"I think he's just gotten smarter and more experienced over the years," Dungy said. "He understands our defense and what we're trying to do. He's just a very solid player. He's never going to be a spectacular guy like Robert and Dwight, but he's going to be one of those guys who goes in and plays his 30 plays and gets the job very effectively.

"He probably is underrated. He never has put up the big sack numbers, but most of the time, he's not in there. In those situations, Robert and Dwight are the guys who are in there in a lot of the third-down and two-minute situations, so he's probably never going to put up big numbers, but he has been good and he has gotten some key sacks for us at the right time.

"He has played a very important role for us and we're very glad to have him back."

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