A Conversation with Hollis Thomas

Seeking to replace two defensive tackles who are already out for the season with injury, the Panthers signed veteran Hollis Thomas last week. The 340-pound Thomas, 35, played in three games with the St. Louis Rams this season before the Rams cut him, saying they wanted to get a look at younger players. The 13-year veteran is known as a loquacious run-stuffer. He faced the Washington Redskins, Sunday's Carolina opponent, with the Rams Sept. 21.

CSR sat down with Thomas after practice Wednesday afternoon to talk about facing the Redskins again, joining the Panthers and, of course, his excellent body art. Here is a condensed transcript of that conversation:

Q: How can you help the Panthers?

A: Thomas wants to make some plays, he says, and protect the linebackers.

Q: Can you help defensive end Julius Peppers reach his potential?

A: "There's a fat guy in the middle. They can't double-team (Peppers) too."

Q: What did you learn from playing against Washington that you could apply on Sunday?

A: Thomas was coy with his answer, not wanting to say anything that Washington could use . "They're a good offensive line," he said. "The quarterback's a good scrambler. You've got to shut down (Redskins tailbacks) Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, and stop 89 (receiver Santana Moss) and 47 (tight end Chris Cooley)."

Q: CSR urged Thomas to share a little more, reminding him that whatever nuggets he had, the Redskins had likely already seen on film anyways.

A: "They can look at film all they want to, but I'm playing a different position, and I get to play a lot more.

"It's not rocket science. You pretty much got to do what they ask you, just be a team player."

(Thomas had lined up as a strict 4-3 tackle with St. Louis, he says, but the Panthers plan to use him as more of a nose guard. He also apparently expects to get more snaps here than he earned in St. Louis, where he registered only 1 tackle and no other stats).

Q: Why do you keep playing?

A: "Championship." (Thomas played in Super Bowl XXXIX with the Eagles but has not won an NFL title).

Thomas signed with the Rams, he says, because "I felt like they had a decent team and I knew the coach (Steve Spagnuolo, a former Eagles assistant), and I felt like in a few years they would be a force...

"And then they didn't need me no more. So I wanted to go somewhere where they can win and (the Panthers) needed me."

Q: You think you can win a title in Carolina?

A: Thomas said he's not thinking that far ahead. The key is to take it one meeting, one practice, one game at a time.

"You can't get busted up looking toward the future," he added. "You just got to take it slow."

Q: I know you don't want to look too much at the future, but it sounds like you expect to play a few more seasons?

A: "I've had a couple years off (Thomas missed eight games due to injury with the Saints last season)...You get refueled and I feel like I take care of myself well enough to do that."

Q: NFL Films has often put a mic on you during games. Do you plan to do that Sunday? Later this season?

A: Thomas said he has no plans to do so Sunday, but added "I don't mind doing it. It's just about enjoying football."...

Finally, the body art: As Thomas sat shirtless at his locker, tattoos covering much of his chest, shoulders and arms were visible. The highlights:

A picture of himself next to his mother was on his right arm, above an inscription reading: "There will never be another who will love you like your mother." A rhinoceros was drawn on his left shoulder, accompanied by the inscription "Force of power. Force of nature."

Said Thomas, grinning: "They're just chick magnets."

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