IRVINE — No matter what happens going forward, the Rams paid their highest-possible compliment to receiver Mike Thomas in mid-July, when they didn’t cut him.
Thomas, a physically gifted but mistake-prone rookie in 2016, received a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Thomas didn’t feign surprise about the positive test, which perhaps is one reason why the Rams gave him a second chance.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” Thomas said of the suspension. “I just knew it was coming, so I just had to take full responsibility for it and learn from my mistakes and move forward from it.”
Thomas only wanted to go so far with his mea culpa on Monday, shortly after he completed his first training-camp practice at UC Irvine. Thomas missed the first nine days of camp with a foot injury.
Thomas politely and patiently answered questions about the injury, about his potential role on a Rams team that is short on receivers and about the suspension, but Thomas hesitated and winced a bit when asked to elaborate on the “mistake” that led to the suspension.
“I don’t want to talk about it, because it’s in the past already,” Thomas said. “I just have to watch what I take and be more responsible and more observant and just learn from it.”
It seems as though the Rams will give him a chance to do so. To make room for Thomas on the active roster Monday, the Rams waived Bradley Marquez, who, with two years of NFL experience, had been one of their most veteran receivers and also was a special-teams contributor.
The subtext seemed clear. Even though Thomas must sit out the first four games of this season (without pay), the Rams still value Thomas and intend to keep him on their roster at the end of camp.
“I think you feel that vertical speed that he has,” Coach Sean McVay said. “That gives us a nice element and option in our pass game. We’re looking forward to progressing and building with him as we move toward the season, even knowing we won’t get him until Week 5, but it’s good to get Mike back out here.”
It’s already been quite a journey for Thomas, whom the Rams drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Southern Mississippi, because of his potential as a 6-foot-1, 195-pound speedster.
Thomas made the Rams’ roster out of camp last year and contributed on special teams, but totaled only three catches, and his two most notable plays were errors: a fumbled kickoff return against…