FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Versatility is one of Adalius Thomas' strengths. His new coach can't wait to use those vast skills.
He joined a linebacking corps stocked by coach Bill Belichick with veterans Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau. At 29, Thomas is the second youngest of the group and less than a month older than Colvin.
"Belichick does a great job of using all his players that are versatile," Thomas said Tuesday. "I think our defense is full of versatile guys. Me, Vrabel, Rosie, all of us are interchangeable guys and so I think that's just a trend that has happened here."
Thomas excels at rushing the passer. His 28 sacks the past three seasons are the most in the league by a linebacker. He also plays as a defensive lineman and even has lined up in the defensive backfield.
Belichick saw his versatility when he coached the AFC team in the Pro Bowl in 2006 when Thomas started at outside linebacker and returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.
Now Belichick is getting an even closer look. The coach talks with the linebackers on the field, making sure they know what they're supposed to do in practice.
"It was a shock to see the head coach being in there hands on like that," Thomas said. "It did catch me a little bit by surprise but, again, I came in with an open mind."
Patriots new wide receiver Kelley Washington spent the last four seasons with Cincinnati and played against Thomas. Now he's going against the 270-pound Thomas in practice.
"He's big, strong. He can move for his size. He's just one of those players you can do a lot with," Washington said. "It's almost like Reggie Bush on the defensive side. You can move him around and do a lot of things with him."
At Baltimore, Thomas played with Ray Lewis and other solid linebackers.
"Coming from one team with great linebackers to coming here with some more great linebackers," Thomas said, "guys that have just been around, it makes your job a lot easier."
Thomas has spent plenty of time with Bruschi as inside linebackers in the first-string 3-4 defense. Colvin and Vrabel figure to start outside with Seau also seeing plenty of playing time.
But less than a week into training camp, Belichick said it's too early to know how he'll utilize Thomas.
"We haven't really gotten into a lot of game planning yet, so right now it's more of him learning the fundamentals and the terminology in our system," Belichick said. "It's just a little bit different than the one he was in, which would be true from any team, any player that changed teams."
"The amateurs do all the picking," Thomas said. "Pros just come and prepare for work and come to work every day."