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With possession charges deferred, De’Anthony Thomas returns to Chiefs

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The speedy wide receiver was needed to fill the hole left by Marcus Kemp’s injury, but his return might not have been possible if charges pending in Allen County hadn’t been deferred.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs brought De’Anthony Thomas back to the team.

The speedy wide receiver was halfway through his fifth season with the Chiefs when he re-fractured a surgically repaired tibia during a practice last October. He spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.

Thomas had been a running back and returner for the Oregon Ducks before the Chiefs selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Though he was listed as a wide receiver even in his first season with the Chiefs, on offense Thomas has always been the quintessential “gadget player.” The Chiefs could count on him to be a threat on reverses and jet sweeps — and catch an occasional pass.

But Thomas’ real value to the Chiefs was always special teams — and not just as a kick returner. Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub was quick to point that out when he spoke to the press on Wednesday.

”I’ve said this before: pound-for-pound, he was probably the toughest player that we had last year until he got hurt,” Toub said. “He does a lot more. He’s not just a returner. He’s a cover guy. He’s a gunner. He’s good on kickoff. He can block. He’s not afraid to stick his head in there.”

So given Toub’s influence on roster decisions, it was a bit of surprise that Thomas was not retained for the 2019 season — or more accurately, it would have been except for his arrest in Allen County, Kansas on suspicion of the possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in January.

That case was still open when the Chiefs were making decisions about free agency in February and March. Thomas’ contract was allowed to expire.

But according to a report from friend-of-the-site Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest, Thomas’ Allen County case was partially resolved just a couple of weeks ago.

An Allen County District Court judge closed the case on August 8 with Thomas receiving deferred judgement for 12 months. He was fined a total of $664 by the court. Thomas will participate in a diversion treatment program, and if [he] fulfills all his obligations without any more legal issues the marijuana charge will be dismissed, according to the Allen County district attorney’s office.

With the possibility of a criminal conviction removed for the time being, the way was clear for the Chiefs to consider bringing Thomas back — even though he could face an NFL suspension. As Derrick noted, however, even if he were to receive one, it would likely be brief.

Whether Thomas faces any suspension stemming from the case under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy now rests with the NFL. Former Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris received a one-game suspension last season following an arrest in March 2017 on felony possession of marijuana, but later pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge that came with a two-day jail sentence. If the NFL doesn’t act before the start of the season, Thomas would be available for Week 1.

On Wednesday, Toub didn’t specifically address Thomas’ arrest, but acknowledged that Thomas’ return had always been a possibility the Chiefs considered. With the season-ending ACL/MCL injury suffered by wide receiver Marcus Kemp during the Chiefs’ 17-7 preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the weekend, it became a probability instead of a possibility.

Might Thomas have been brought back if the charges against him were still open? We don’t know. On Wednesday, Chiefs coaches limited themselves to discussing the football side of the equation.

”When Kemp went down, obviously there was a hole there,” Toub explained. “He kind of fills that hole for us. Plays a lot of the same positions. A different type [of] guy — he’s more of a speed guy, he’s not as physical — but he brings a lot to the table for us. It’s good to see that he’s healthy. He looks good out there right now.”

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy also sang Thomas’ praises.

”De’Anthony’s a football player. He fell right in yesterday. You guys who were out here yesterday, you had an opportunity to see him jump in and take a few reps. He’s been with our organization for a number of years. He knows the coaches. He knows the system. He understands how we do things. So it’s important to get somebody back, but also somebody who can bring some juice. The kid loves to play football. He loves to practice. He enjoys it. That’s the kind of people — and character — that we want.”

Bieniemy also said that while Thomas’ offensive contributions haven’t always been prominent on the stat sheets, he was a valuable offensive player, too.

”De’Anthony provided a lot of depth in a lot of different positions last year for us. Obviously it hurt watching him go down, but you know what? In this profession, things happen. And when someone does down, the next man has to seize that opportunity. Unfortunately it happens in this industry, but now it’s his opportunity to come back and re-establish himself as the productive player that he once was.”

Thomas himself said that even though he couldn’t be on the field for the 2018 season, he found it exciting to watch.

“I watched a few games,” he said. “I could see the electricity from special teams to offense to defense. That got me fired up. Now I’m back to bring just a little bit more spark — bring a little bit more flavor to it.”

Thomas was asked if he had stayed in the Kansas City area in case the Chiefs came to call again.

”I did stay in the Kansas City area,” he replied. “I love KC. I feel like I’ll never leave this place.”

“I come from south central Los Angeles,” he added. “I grew up in a fast neighborhood. Here in KC, the vibe is a lot slower. That’s perfect for me. I love fishing, too. Fishing is real big out here, I guess. I’m just enjoying my life. I accomplished a lot of things. I’m trying to accomplish more. I never got to realize what I was doing because everything was moving so fast. So it’s all about taking it in. How can I keep grinding and keep going forward?”

Thomas said he didn’t allow himself to be worried about the drug arrest or whether he would be able to come back to the Chiefs.

”It’s really been up in the air. I just stayed patient — disciplining myself and training my body and stuff like that,” he said. “Just getting ready. I never knew what was going to happen. I just stayed focused and stayed disciplined. It’s kind of what I had to do.”

Thomas said that while he is still familiar enough with the Chiefs to step right back in, there are some things that are different this season.

”Andy Reid’s mind moves at like 100 miles an hour. so he’s always throwing different stuff in. It’s just great to be back and be a part of this team. I’ve always been a contributor in all the teams I’ve been on. Just getting back to contributing — whether it’s on special teams or offense — and doing whatever I can to help this team.”