The normally vocal Randy Thomas is often at a loss for words when asked to explain the Redskins' woes that have caused their once-promising season to disintegrate into a non-playoff year. He just shakes his head, and his face spells incredulousness over the situation.
Tuesday night, the Redskins' guard was again at a loss for words. But this time there was reason for him to crack a smile.
Thomas was named The Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year at a ceremony at the Sheraton Premiere hotel in Vienna. Tight end Chris Cooley, fullback Mike Sellers and linebacker Marcus Washington, last year's winner, were the other nominees.
Thomas' initial reaction to the honor was one of surprise.
"It's really neat," he said. "It's something I wasn't prepared for. I just knew Cooley or Marcus or Sellers was going to receive it. I think those guys have had great years. But it's nice to know people recognize offensive line play.
"It's probably one of the bigger awards that I've received in my eight-year career. It feels great to finally get recognized for what I do. This [honor] is going to the 'Dirtbags.'"
Thomas was referring to his offensive line, a key reason the Redskins' running game has been one of the team's bright spots this season and now stands sixth in the league.
In recent weeks, as the Redskins have returned to a smash-mouth style of football, running back Ladell Betts has churned out three straight 100-yard games, including 155 against Atlanta on Dec. 3 and a career-high 171 against Philadelphia on Dec. 10.
It's arguable that without the talent of the 6-5, 310-pound Thomas at pulling and drive blocking, the running game would be less effective. His pass blocking has been solid, too.
The following puts Thomas' stellar season in perspective: He's the third offensive lineman and first guard to be named Redskins Player of the Year by The Quarterback Club since the organization inked its name on the annual award in 1969.
Redskins legendary offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, who was also honored at Tuesday's event, said he was shocked that an offensive lineman received the award.
But Jacoby knew Thomas was the right man to achieve the milestone.
"I've admired his play," Jacoby said. "He's such a great pulling guard with the way he leads around on sweeps. He's an all-around good player. He deserves it coming back from what happened to him last year and what he's done this year."
Last year, Thomas was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season when he broke his leg during a 35-7 dismantling of Dallas late in the season.
While he was carted off FedExField, the crowd chanted, RANDY!, RANDY!, to note their admiration for the popular Redskin. The Redskins were in the midst of a five-game winning streak at the time that led to a playoff berth.
Thomas is thankful that he was able to rebound from the injury and start right away in 2006.
"The game is so vicious and violent," he said. "But I was able to jump back so quickly because of the support from the team and the training staff, my teammates pushing from behind and telling me when I shouldn't go out there and when I should. With all that, it got me through."
Thomas, one of the Redskins' top leaders and most respected players, came to the Redskins on the weekend back in 2003 when they plucked four players from the Jets, including wide receiver Laveranues Coles, kicker John Hall and kick returner Chad Morton. Of that group, Thomas and Hall are the only ones left standing as Redskins, and Hall is on injured reserve.
Both of the Redskins' bookend offensive tackles, Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen, have said that Thomas' performance this year has him deserving of his first trip to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.
"No doubt," Samuels said after the Eagles game. "He's been overlooked for years, period. I can't just pinpoint one year. He should have made it with the Jets a few times and with us two or three times. But it's kind of like a little popularity thing a lot of times. I tell him all the time he should be going."
*Michael Richman is a freelance writer who specializes in Redskins history. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.