Thurman Thomas believes Falcons need to ease off Turner

Thurman Thomas, former Buffalo Bills player, speaks and gestures during his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007, in Canton, Ohio. Photographer: Jay LaPrete/Bloomberg News.

Thurman Thomas, former Buffalo Bills player, speaks and gestures during his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007, in Canton, Ohio. Photographer: Jay LaPrete/Bloomberg News.

BIRDLAND —  Former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas was in town last week at the Gridiron Greats football camp at the University of West Georgia and shared his thoughts on the Falcons.

Thomas helped the Bills four consecutive AFC championships and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

While the Falcons went 13-3 last season and held the No. 1 seed  in the NFC entering the playoffs, Thomas was not too impressed. Also,  he had a few tips for how to use Falcons running back Michael Turner.

Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) breaks through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line for a 5-yard touchdown run during the first quarter. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2008. AP

Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) breaks through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line for a 5-yard touchdown run during the first quarter. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2008. AP

“Honestly, I think the Falcons are still a long ways away,” Thomas said. “Personally, I think they gave up too much for Julio Jones. They needed to tighten up their defense. That’s what hurt them more than anything. Their defense let them down against  Green Bay.”

He made it clear that he likes Jones.

“Julio can turn out to be a awesome and great player,” Thomas said. “But I just think they gave up too much for him. They are on the rise. They have a great young quarterback in Matt Ryan.”

He believes the Falcons are riding Turner too hard.

“They need to start looking for another running back,” Thomas said.  “Michael Turner, when you carry that ball 300 times a year for a few years, it puts some wear and tear on your body. I think they need another running back to give him a break every now and again.”

In his first four seasons in the league as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup in San Diego, Turner never had more than 80 carries in a season.

After signing with the Falcons in 2008, he had 376 carries. He suffered a severe high ankle sprain in 2009 and finished with 178 carries. Last season, he had 334 carries. He went to the Pro Bowl after each of his 300-plus carry seasons.

Thomas played for 13 seasons and had more than 300 carries just twice.  He had an impressive string of eight straight 1,000-yard seasons from 1989 to 1996.

“They are definitely an up-and-coming team,” Thomas said. “They are one of those teams that needs to learn how to win on the road. It’s always good to play at home, but you have to learn how to win that key one on the road. They had a great season at home. But I think at the end of the day, their defense kind of let them down. I was surprise that they didn’t help the defense more in the draft.”

The Falcons did draft running back Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round of the draft. Jason Snelling, Turner’s main backup last season, could end up as a free agent.  Also, Jerious Norwood is trying to battle back from knee surgery. The Falcons also have Antone Smith and Gartrell Johnson on the roster.

Thomas rushed for 12,074 yards and is 14th on the all-time rushing list.  Emmitt Smith is No. 1 with 18,355 yards.

“I talk to Emmitt and Barry Sanders a lot too,” Thomas said. “I said you know what, you guys have about two or three thousand yards more than I do, but come December I was playing in ice. I was playing in snow. If I was playing in Dallas or inside like Barry I’d probably would have another 3,000 yards. I could have been the all-time leading rusher if I didn’t play on ice, sleet and snow.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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76 comments Add your comment

bigstack

June 20th, 2011
5:59 am

Thurman may have had only 300 plus carries twice in his career but he caught alot more passes than Turner ever will. It is all the same. I believe the Falcons will pass more this year if everyone stays healthy and they will address the defense if there is free agency. Also, the Falcons were 6-2 on the road. They had big road wins in New Orleans and Tampa and St. Louis and Seattle. My Dad always says opinions are like a$$ holes. Everybody has one. Thurman is clueless about most of what he said.

RomeDawg

June 20th, 2011
6:13 am

Thurman Thomas was one helluva player, but he may not be too smart. The Falcons were 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC, they can’t be that far off. Green Bay was a good team that got hot at the right time.

And Thurman, if we are playing the “what if” game, had Sanders not retired in the middle of his career God only knows how many yards rushing he would have had. Sanders is still the best running back I have ever seen play.

Marcus

June 20th, 2011
6:17 am

What … no Roddy review?!?!?

back to topic … we need to keep Snelling, as the trend now is a 2-RB system. With a 3-headed monster of Snelling, Turner, and J. Rodgers, we need to find a niche for all of them to get quality touches that won’t disrupt the offense.
I am scouring now looking at next years’ draft, as I do think we will be in the market for a DE, OLB, and/or DB. Without that 1st round pick, the scouting dept. is going to earn its pay getting a bona fide 1st year contributor.

Pat Way

June 20th, 2011
6:20 am

Thurman Thomas has an ego that is bigger than Buffalo itself. He is alos the all time leader and holds the record for most fumbles by a running back maybe he should have borowed some of Lester hayes stickem

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 20th, 2011
6:31 am

bigstack — In Thomas 300-plus carry seasons, he caught 58 in 1992 and 48 passes in 1993, too. Here are his career stats.Marcus — Roddy review is coming soon. Also, Tuggle goes in ATL hall of fame on Saturday.

Falcon Bill

June 20th, 2011
6:34 am

All that from a guy who couldn’t find his helmet during the Super Bowl!?!?!? I don’t believe I’ll pay much attention to Thurman Thomas’ opinion.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 20th, 2011
6:35 am

Marcus — Roddy review is coming soon. Also, Jessie Tuggle goes into the ATL Hall of Fame on Saturday.

RNew

June 20th, 2011
6:40 am

Mr. Thomas, Emmitt has over 6,000 yards more than you. Barry retired early and still still left you well behind. You were a great back, but you’re not close to the talent level of those two.

taudawg

June 20th, 2011
6:47 am

You just have to love it when a Hall of Famer feels he has to promote himself like that. Class players accept praise and don’t seek it. He could have complimented Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, but feels he has to promote himself. The interview was about Michael Turner and the Falcons, but he makes it about himself. When a self serving guy like this has an opinion, it is irrelevant. The world is full of self centered athletes who feel the need to continually tell you how good they were.

Real American

June 20th, 2011
6:50 am

LOL….good grief. Some Falcon fans sure have poor self-esteem on behalf of their team. LOL

SimpleDawg

June 20th, 2011
7:04 am

Thurman sounds a little bitter…..and more than a little jealous.

RE:taudawg

June 20th, 2011
7:07 am

Aint that the truth. Never EVER here Barry taking about what he could have done if he had Jim Kelly as a QB or Emmitts O-Line. Thurman I loved you as a kid. Now I have lost respect.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 20th, 2011
7:14 am

SimpleDawg — Thomas was joking about it. He wasn’t bitter. He’s just an old-timer telling a fish tale. That’s part of the fun of talking to the old-timers. They become greater in retirement.

Big Dog 98

June 20th, 2011
7:19 am

Who cares what this washed up has been thinks?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 20th, 2011
7:27 am

Big Dog 98 – He’s a Pro Football Hall of Famer. I think it’s against the rules to call a Hall of Famer a “washed up has been.” I’m just saying.

Willie Coyote

June 20th, 2011
7:49 am

The Falcons had every piece they needed to contend except another play-maker (mission accomplished) and a pass rusher (free agency here we come. All these people keep saying they gave up too much but they gave up draft picks. This team has made a ton of draft picks the past two years and there is no-one that they could have gotten that would have paid immediate dividends on defense. They could have gotten a DE or line-backer but those guys would likely not be starters and they would still have had to go out and get a pass rusher in free agency. These “experts” need to look at what the teams have done in the past and what they really need before they rush to criticize. Herm Edwards is the only one I’ve seen who has complimented the Falcons drafting of Julio because, unlike the others, he recognizes their pass rusher need will be best served via free agency.

Willie Coyote

June 20th, 2011
7:51 am

Oh, & guys, Thurman was an awesome player. Don’t insult his career accomplishments because he isn’t impressed with the Falcons. His opinions simply showed he didn’t have an understanding of this team (like most of the other “experts” out there).

Columbus

June 20th, 2011
7:53 am

Thurman can’t think outside the box either as how improving the offense IMPROVES the defense and wears the other teams defense down. The Falcons defense will not have to be as good not because the scoring is going to go up BIG TIME and the OPPONENTS will NOT be on the FIELD nearly as MUCH as they have been the last few years. It’s ALL good OK? Offense is now GB caliber and defensive help is coming from young guys who have been learning and growing but have not been ready and he obviously has forgotten that the Falcons can get a very good defensive free agent or 2! (if there is a season). Thurman will eat his words. One thing though, I do agree with him one one point, I was not that impressed with the Falcons 13-3 record. They got EXTREMELY lucky, HUGE breaks at pivotal times and some calls that they souldnt have gotten. They easily and justifiably could have lost at least 2 more games. The Ravens and Saints games come to mind off the top of my head…but they are a young team and it’s nice to get the breaks sometimes. They definately are going to be a FORCE and capable of going to the Super Bowl MOST years as long as MR. Blank is the owner!

RE:taudawg/ DLED

June 20th, 2011
8:08 am

Well if he was joking. Just didnt come across like that. Remembers Jordans retirement speach. Some guys just cant turn it off.

JONESBORO SLIM

June 20th, 2011
8:18 am

Like Bum Philippes said “First we knocked on the door”… the Bills knocked on the dooor 4 times and never got in…

DC Dirty Bird

June 20th, 2011
8:24 am

Here’s the real point to make. Thurman Thomas says that we need to “ease” of of Michael Turner but then criticizes our 2011 draft. Does he not realize that the whole purpose of moving up to draft Julio was to shift our offensive philosophy to a more balanced attack from the run first and play behind the defense offense we played last year?

True Falcon Fan

June 20th, 2011
8:50 am

Thomas – sounds like he ran out of “cheese or Wine as in whine” – his next statement will be “we had the right players and wrong coaches”
Emmet Smith i assure everyone had his fair share of nasty weather games! As for B. Sanders – if he had finished his career with injuries, “Wow who knows what his numbers would have been”
Please don’t get wrong, T.Thomas was a very good versitlie RB, However Thomas was NOT the best by NO means!

Go Turner – Go Falcons

SirReal

June 20th, 2011
8:50 am

I think Thurman is right about giving 33 too many carries. ONLY b/c we do need a more versatile change up back….(5th rd addressed that) Yes, he was right about the defense letting us down in the playoffs. NO, he was wrong about giving up too much for Jones. You dont get players like that every year PERIOD. They obviously think we have enough depth or will. All of this crying about the D and there still hasnt been any type of free agency yet.lol They will adress the D. Lastly, he was WRONG about last season’s road record (though we can still tighten up on the road a bit against higher echelon teams). I loved Thurman Thomas growing up but to achieve a 13-3 record we couldnt have possibly have had a winning record only at home. My humble opinion.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 20th, 2011
9:24 am

True Falcon Fan — Thanks for checking in.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 20th, 2011
9:27 am

RE:taudawg/ DLED — I love hearing the older guys talk stuff. “When I was playing, . . .” I just don’t like it on TV or radio broadcasts of other games. Also, i like it when it’s unsolicited. I asked him about the Falcons and ended up with him running in the ice and snow. Absolutely, beautiful. Wanted to share that stuff with y’all.

PlanB

June 20th, 2011
9:31 am

Some really good points have been made here. (From Marcus, Willie Coyote, Columbus and DC Dirty Bird) The more I look at the trade, the better I feel. We have depth if we keep all the good people we want to keep. We are in a place where we do not need alot. It would be nice to get a pass rusher in FA but if not, our young guys will have better experience. Adding Julio, (injured) H Douglas and K Meier will keep our defense off the field alot longer and will be fresher than last year.
As for Turner, we have to remember that his1st 4 years he was a back up and had very few carries. The big numbers only started 3 years ago.
As for Thurman Thomas’ opinion, his job was to run the ball. Not to pass on words of wisdom.

Big Ray

June 20th, 2011
9:34 am

Another reason very few players could become good GMs. Thomas knew what the heck to do with a ball when it was thrown at him or handed to him. He was the man (among a few others).

But clearly he doesn’t know what free agency is, thinks that a pile of rookies would have turned our defense around (yeah, maybe in a few years), and that we’ve ignored the RB position. I guess he doesn’t know we drafted Rodgers….

Big Ray

June 20th, 2011
9:34 am

Plan B ,

EXACTLY.

Thomas

June 20th, 2011
9:56 am

You guys take this stuff way too seriously, it’s an OPINION. Falcon fans relax, ur not going to beat GB anyway. Awesome how u non-athletic know it all’s, know everything, when u have never stepped foot on an NFL field. Are non-athletic people the only ones to have an opinion. I’ve met Thurman plenty of times, and trust me he praises about Barry and Emmitt all the time. He told me he goes to the HOF, and ask himself, do I really belong here. He’s not a stat guy, a me guy, trust me on this one. If you get a chance to meet him, you will think differently.

Deezy

June 20th, 2011
9:57 am

Thurman Thomas was a great back. You can’t really compare him to Emmitt or Barry. His style was different they were great runners. I would compare him to Marshall Faulk. He was a matchup nightmare because he was great runner and great receiver. Michael Turner probably have another two good seasons with the Falcons. The Falcons should do a better job of monitoring his carriers, but I guess the feel they took a gamble paying him big bucks on a unproven back. So they going to ride him hard. Eddie George was a great back with Titans for about a 5 year span. He was always top in the league with carries every year. He retired at pretty young age. A running back just have a very short life. Emmitt had the best line ever and Barry Sanders was just awesome with what he had players of his caliber don’t come around that often.

JMF

June 20th, 2011
10:12 am

Thurman, I do not know if you may read this but if you do show some class and have more knowledge of your subject matter. You can make 3 or 4 good statements and it all can be lost with a few classless statements. You never hear Willie Mays talking about if he had not played in Candlestick Park or drafted into the milatary he would be the all time home run leader. It’s called CLASS.

dean

June 20th, 2011
10:21 am

I’m waiting to watch this guy: Jacquizz Rodgers

Thomas

June 20th, 2011
10:31 am

I see Roddy White said the he sld be higher than 24th on the NFL Network top 100 players. I don’t see you Falcons fan saying he’s classless like you said about Thurman…

Just saying

June 20th, 2011
11:16 am

Thanks DOL for the Thurman Thomas article. Interesting, but it’s just his opinion which is clear just like all the other posters on this blog. It’s their opinions. Some are knowledgeable; some are stupid. And as some one has said, “you can’t fix stupid!” Just glad the Falcons have great leadership and are committed to winning football games. It’s more fun to win! Or to be a fan of a winning team.

Anderson

June 20th, 2011
11:50 am

A few things……

A lot of people like to say it was the defense defense defense that played poorly in the play-off loss to Green Bay. While the defense deserves it share of the blame….do these people remember the costly offensive turnovers that also doomed the Falcons. As coach Mike Smith has repeatedly said it was a bad night for the whole (offense,defense,coaching staff) Atlanta Falcons team.

Thurman Thomas said the Falcons “have a long ways to go”…I don’t agree with that. I would categorize a team such as the Carolina Panthers in the “long ways to go” category.

I will agree with Thomas in that the load needs to be decreased for running back Michael Turner. From what I am reading and hearing the coaching staff is ready to let Matt Ryan take on a much more heavy load on offense. I certainly hope that turns out to be true.

Anderson

June 20th, 2011
11:53 am

Oh and one more thing…..Thurman Thomas said the Falcons need to learn to win on the road. Well they were 6-2 on the road in 2010. That is a damn good road record in the NFL.

PlanB

June 20th, 2011
12:12 pm

@ Sir Thomas – I should have gone to a basic blog 101 due to not having any experience or having met any of the players like Sir Thomas did. Please excuse the hell out of my lack of knowledge. I will try to stay out of your blog. Better yet, why don’t you find another blog and leave this one to us unknowledgable ones. I read Thomas’ words that happened to have quotation marks around them. That means HE said them. He also said the Falcons need to learn how to win on the road. As bigstack said, we were 6-2 on the road. I’m thinking that’s not bad, but he did play in the NFL and I didn’t so I guess he knows better. Do you know there are players in the NFL that can’t read and write? Be thankful you are a little above them.

PlanB

June 20th, 2011
12:17 pm

@Anderson – good comments, they make good sense.

True Falcon Fan

June 20th, 2011
1:15 pm

T. Thomas is a very good person & great RB. But he has no “SB – WINNERS” rings in his memoirs. Been there 4 times ended-up kissing his sister, enough said!

This Falcons team and Coaching staff are still in their infancy, “SKY IS THE LIMIT BABY”

Go Turner – Go Falcons

Thomas

June 20th, 2011
1:24 pm

Last time I checked, neither did Barry, Martin, ED, Baylor, Barkley, and alot of other GREAT ones don’t have rings. How many rings do the Falcons have, last I counted (0). It’s a team game, and he always put his team above any accomplishments. Just because the Falcons are committed to winning doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You can put qoutes around anything clown..

Deez

June 20th, 2011
1:24 pm

Thurman Thomas does have a very valid point. I’m from Atlatna but I lived in Upstate New York for 10 years. Ice and Snow on the ground 6 months of the year. Not easy to play on..I can only think of two other backs that have the same kind of production as Thurman did and played outside up north. Walter Payton, and Jim Brown…pretty good company.

Deez

June 20th, 2011
1:26 pm

Andersen…Our two road loses??? Philly and Steelers. I think he meant win on the road against GOOD teams…not Panthers and Bucs.

Thomas

June 20th, 2011
1:29 pm

Any Thoughts on Roddy White, or just because he’s a Falcon, he can say what he wants, and you guys won’t comment on it. Sounds like a guy, who pats himself on the back.. Thoughts plzz, oh he said he sld be ranked higher than the 24th best player in the NFL…. At least Thurman’s in the HOF

Thomas

June 20th, 2011
1:33 pm

Thanks @Deez, that’s what I got out of the article. Cld Atlanta have did what GB did on it’s SB run, I think not, because you’re not going to get Home field advantage every yr… Just my opinion

PlanB

June 20th, 2011
2:32 pm

Thomas – You got out of the article that he meant to say one thing and said another and you are trying to convince us how smart you are. Then you showed off your ignorance when you said you can put quotation marks around anything. No you can’t. I won’t bother to explain. Intelligent people already know.

Deez – Did you happen to think that while Thurman was running the ball in the ice and snow that the defense was having to tackle in the same. I believe the side knowing where the ball is going has the advantage which is the offense. They might also be playing teams that are not conditioned to that type of weather such as Miami, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, NO, Dallas, 49ers, Oakland and many others. There are also many teams up north that play in domes also being at a disadvantage. Seems like things were going his way. As bigstack’s dad said, opinions are like a$$ holes which reminds my, see ya Thomas.

True Falcon Fan

June 20th, 2011
3:13 pm

@Thomas hey boooozo – the Falcons have at least 1 SB losers ring. Just like you have 4 “LOSER” SB rings – almost in “ROW” – “It is what it is” – no need to through out any false or true quotes. Senor Thomas Boozo The Clown! So if you are not a Falcons fan – you can exict “NOW”!

Go Turner Go Falcons

BARRY

June 20th, 2011
3:15 pm

Hey Y’all:

I respect Thurmond Thomas a lot as a running back, but not as a coach making decision on what wins football games. From what I remeber he never coached any of the games that his team ran. he just ran the plays that were given to him. Also, with all that, his coaching did not win any Super Bowls for Buffalo. Ou Falcons are a young team on the rise and what we are doing is working for us in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”. Of course, we are tweeking the offense to be more explosive and this will take a load off Turner, but for now, the “PROCESS CONTINUES” and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Our Falcons, community,local media and players know what hurt them in the playoff and I am morethan confident they will be addressing that weaklnes through free agency. T ame more than confident they will be dong this in “ONE HEARTBEAT”!!” . So we respect your advice Thurmond but save it for the Buffalo Bills.

NOW, ARE WE READY FOR SOME FOOTBALLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????? THUMP!!! ICN HEAR IT!! THUMP!! THUMP!!!! I HEAR WITH “ONE HEARTBEAT!!!”

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!

………………………………………….”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!!!!……………………………….

True Falcon Fan

June 20th, 2011
3:20 pm

Barry now that’s what i’m talkin’ about
Thank You

Go Falcons

tricky dick

June 20th, 2011
3:58 pm

How come everyone see’s that the Falcons needed to address their pitiful D except the Falcons? Even a “self promoter” like Thomas can see it and he was right in saying the Falcons are a long way away from any championship bid. Sorrrrrrry Falcons fans but not this year again !

tricky dick

June 20th, 2011
4:00 pm

@ Barry- It should be “ONE MORE MELTDOWN , BABY!!!!!