FOXBOROUGH - Home for Adalius Thomas is Nixburg, Ala., but for the first seven seasons of his NFL career, his address was Baltimore. The Patriots linebacker returns to his old stomping grounds Monday, when the Patriots face the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
If there were any doubt that Thomas, who departed the Ravens during the offseason for a five-year, $35.04 million contract with New England, left Baltimore's brash-pack persona behind him, it was erased yesterday.
Quoth the ex-Raven: "It's another game, man. It's not Baltimore vs. me. The biggest thing is to just prepare for this game just like any other game.
"It's just the fact that you know some of the guys that are there; I know a lot of the guys that are there. I was there for seven years. There is nothing more than that."
Thomas returns to Maryland as a member of an 11-0 Patriots team that is still chasing history after pulling out a gutsy 31-28 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night, despite surrendering a season-high-tying point total and a season-high 391 yards of offense.
Adding to the intrigue is the war of words Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis sparked with Thomas earlier this season after the Ravens ringleader took offense to a quote attributed to Thomas in a Sports Illustrated piece that compared the Patriots and Ravens.
"People there wanted the limelight; people sought out the limelight, starting with the head coach," said Thomas, according to the piece. "It was a star-studded system. Here it's about as different as you can get. Everybody here shies away from being the star guy. Nobody on this team beats his chest. They just all go about their business. And win."
Lewis, an eight-time Pro Bowler, fired back in a Baltimore radio interview, saying, "When you take a shot at men that you claim to love to go to war with, I call those cowards. If you have something to say privately, you don't have to go to a newspaper. If you have something to say to a man, speak it."
Yesterday, Thomas was not interested in rehashing the saga.
"I'm not talking about that because you're going to take one thing I say and print half of it and put it in the paper and make it into something it's not," said Thomas. "I have talked to Ray. We talked, and all the nonsense that was printed that was half-true, all of that's done with."
Houston Texans safety Will Demps, who played with both Lewis and Thomas in Baltimore from 2002-05, said he thinks Thomas's quote in the Sports Illustrated article was never intended as a shot at his former team. Thomas was seen as a favorite of Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, and Demps said the buzz around the league among players is that Bill Belichick and the Patriots do things a different way.
"Knowing how he is, it wasn't nothing against Baltimore. All he said is it's a different organization," said Demps. "I left for New York [in 2006] and it was a totally different organization. What A.D. said was misinterpreted, and Ray took it as a shot to the organization and him.
"A.D. is a class act and he would never take shots at an organization that gave him an opportunity. He never would have been given that opportunity in New England if it was not for Baltimore."
Thomas's reputation as a jack-of-all-trades defender and disruptive force was cultivated in Baltimore's 3-4 defense. That versatility is part of what attracted the Patriots to him. It came in handy against the Eagles, as Thomas started the game at inside linebacker and ended it at outside linebacker after Rosevelt Colvin was injured in the third quarter.
Yesterday, Belichick said there was no news on Colvin, who left with what was announced as a foot injury, even though the Patriots medical staff appeared to be attending to his right arm. When the discrepancy was pointed out to Belichick, he cryptically said, "It was announced as a foot? Then we'll leave it with that."
Thomas, who was coming off a career-high 2 1/2-sack game against the Bills Nov. 18, said it was fun to reprise his role as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He made the Pro Bowl for Baltimore playing there last year, leading the Ravens in sacks with 11, but has been primarily an inside linebacker with the Patriots, although he has lined up as a rush end in passing situations.
"It's always fun to change up and go different places," said Thomas, who has three sacks this season. "I think it gives the offense something more to look at it, being that you're here and you're there.
"A lot of guys have done that. I'm not the first guy to do it and I'm pretty sure I won't be the last. If I'm told to go somewhere, I go."
Even though his former team is struggling - the reeling Ravens are trying to snap a five-game losing streak that has left them tied for last place in the AFC North at 4-7 - Thomas expects their best effort.
"None of that matters. Whoever plays best on Monday night, that's who is going to win the game," said Thomas. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be a challenge. They're a very physical team and a veteran-laden team, and we have a challenge cut out for us again."