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Panthers provide ex-Redskin Thomas a fresh start

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Devin Thomas is known for appearing in a music video with Fantasia, for his modeling work and for a picture that made the rounds on Twitter showing him sleeping in a Washington Redskins film room.

One thing Thomas hasn't done is become a reliable NFL receiver.

He will get another shot with the desperate and winless Carolina Panthers.

A week after the Panthers waived receiver Dwayne Jarrett, a disappointing former second-round pick whose work ethic was questioned, they've replaced him with another disappointing former second-round pick whose work ethic has been questioned.

Thomas is even wearing Jarrett's old No. 80.

Oh, and Charlotte is where Fantasia lives these days. But Thomas, 23, insists his focus is not on modeling or music, but football and proving Redskins coach Mike Shanahan wrong for waiving him last week.

"I think I was in the doghouse just because of that situation," Thomas said Wednesday. "It wasn't because of my skills or my ability to run routes or knowing the playbook."

Just like Jarrett, the 45th overall pick in 2007 who was let go after his second arrest for a driving while impaired charge in three years, Thomas was accused of being a bad route-runner and not knowing the plays after being the 34th pick in 2008 out of Michigan State.

The 6-foot-2 Thomas managed just 40 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns with the Redskins, similar to Jarrett's 35 catches for 428 yards and one TD.

When the old-school Shanahan took over in Washington in the offseason, he was turned off by Thomas' effort on the field and his modeling and music video work off it.

Then there was the picture Washington teammate Brandon Banks took in the preseason of Thomas asleep in a film room. Banks posted it on Twitter, angering Thomas because he claimed it was taken during a break between meetings.

"I tried to close my eyes for a second and I didn't know my fellow receiver would take a picture like that which is a no-no," Thomas said. "You never have a phone in the meeting and then he put it on Twitter. He was reprimanded for it. He had to apologize to the team and to me. That's how it was. Once it leaked out the media ran with it.

"I hope that wasn't the case to lowball me just to move up."

Thomas made the Redskins' cut to 53 players, but didn't catch a pass this season before he was waived on Saturday.

"Everybody's got a different mindset on what work means, what dedication means, what commitment means," Shanahan said. "All I told Devin was if you want to be the best player you want to be, your commitment is going to have to be stronger."

The Panthers (0-5), who are without top receiver Steve Smith (sprained ankle) needed help after Jarrett was waived. Carolina had only three rookie receivers and David Clowney, claimed off waivers last week, available in Sunday's 23-6 loss to Chicago.

The Panthers claimed Thomas on Monday and he made his practice debut Wednesday.

"I've seen plenty of him on tape both coming out of college as well as with the Redskins," coach John Fox said. "I thought he had a good first day. ... I hope he helps improve our passing game."

Thomas spent extra time working on timing with rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Joining a team ranked last in the NFL in scoring and total offense, Thomas knows he will have a chance to play. He's also returned kicks in his career.

"I'm just so happy to help this team," Thomas said. "Everybody has a positive attitude around here even though it's 0-5. There are a lot of young guys here, and I feel like I'm more of a veteran."

As for off the field, Thomas said he ended up in Fantasia's suggestive video and doing modeling through a mutual friend. He thinks he's received more criticism than Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens for off-field interests because "those guys solidified themselves as top receivers."

Thomas hasn't come close to doing that.

"I talked to the GM (Marty Hurney) and I told him he has nothing to worry about and that I'm focusing on football and that stuff can come later in life," Thomas said. "I'm ready to be a great receiver."

Notes: While Fox said he still hasn't decided on whether Clausen or Matt Moore will start Oct. 24 against the 49ers, Moore hinted he will remain the backup QB. "Coach Fox has said like four words to me since the game," Moore said. "I think things are the same they've been the past couple weeks." ... RT Jeff Otah said he is still 2-3 weeks from being able to practice because of continued problems following two surgeries on his left knee. "I've got to strengthen the leg and it's taking time with my big frame," said Otah, who has not played or practiced all season. ... The Panthers will practice Thursday before taking a three-day break.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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