Both veterans are scheduled to become free agents once a collective bargaining agreement is reached, but Brown has not ruled out a return to Miami, even if he's no longer viewed as the long-term option in town. The 29-year-old told The Miami Herald he'd consider a return in a mentor role for Thomas, the second-leading rusher in Kansas State history.
"Iâm open to that," Brown said. "I think (Thomas) said he has some work to do as far as learning the running back position. Itâs going to be tougher for him because of this lockout.
"Heâs going to have a lot of things to pick up fast. It takes a lot more than just athletic ability to be successful and make this transition."
Thomas is seen as the running back of the future in Miami, a title once held by Brown when he was selected with the second overall pick out of Auburn in the 2005 draft. Brown has had a solid if not spectacular six-year run with the Dolphins, though injuries have limited his productivity.
Brown says he's a team player who doesn't fret about personal numbers. He cited his good friendship with Williams as an example of his ability to check his ego at the door.
âWith Ricky and me, we had this situation where we grew close to each other -- he was in my wedding,â said Brown. âAs long as everybodyâs goal is the same -- to win football games -- I think everything will work out.â
Brown and Williams have split carries the past three seasons. In 2010, Brown carried the ball 200 times for 734 yards and five touchdowns. It's unlikely the Dolphins will bring back all three running backs, but no decisions will be made until the lockout concludes.
Citing a team source, the Herald reported the Dolphins are open to either veteran returning if the price is right. The source singled out Brown as the âpreferableâ choice between the two.
The end of the season brought some acrimony between Brown and the team, when Brown was left on the bench in a Week 17 loss to the Patriots less than 20 yards shy of reaching a $500,000 incentive bonus. Brown doesn't see it as a deal breaker.
âI donât think thatâs going to affect my negotiations process,â Brown said. âI had a chance to talk to my running backs coach, and we talked through it. It would have been great to get that incentive, knowing you have people in your corner when it comes to those types of things.
âBut Iâm realistic. The football profession is bigger than just having fun. Thereâs a business aspect, and their ultimate goal is to make money. It happened. Itâs cool. Part of this profession is about making adjustments and putting things behind you.â
It remains to be seen if a deal can be reached, as the two sides had considerable distance in previous talks. Brown has extensive ties to the community through his charity efforts, a key reason why he's open to a return.
"Iâm leaving all of my options open," Brown said. "I feel like Iâve established myself in the community. At the same time, thereâs a business aspect. I want to be fair. It has to be a deal that makes sense for me.
"If that opportunity is in Miami, Iâd be open to that."