THOMAS: Ignored in draft 3 years ago, no one can afford to overlook Bills' star now PERSONNEL FILE Ken Murray


TAMPA, Fla. -- Thurman Thomas says he's over it now. But don't believe him.

Three years after he was a disappointing second-round pick b the Buffalo Bills in the 1988 NFL draft, Thomas still seethes over the insult.

An All-American running back at Oklahoma State, Thomas injured his left knee in a pickup basketball game before his junior season. It required arthroscopic surgery, and that cloud hung over Thomas a year later, costing him first-round money in the draft.

The Los Angeles Rams, he said, were one of the teams tha indicated they would take him. They chose Gaston Green with their first-round pick. "At that point, I said the draft was not what it was supposed to be," he said.

"They [NFL teams] made a big deal about the injury, but i wasn't major surgery. They thought I was injured more than I was."

The Bills finally took Thomas on the 40th pick overall. The eight running back taken in the draft, Thomas was a bargain for the Bills. He led the NFL in scrimmage yards the last two years. His combined 2,541 rushing yards over the same period is tops among AFC backs. And this year, rushing for 1,297 yards, he will make his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.

Still, he doesn't feel he has received his due. Each Monda morning during the season, he studies the stats of the backs who were taken ahead of him in the draft.

"I haven't gotten the credit I deserve," he said. "When they tal about runnings backs, they talk about [Chicago's] Neal Anderson or [Detroit's] Barry Sanders. I'm never mentioned. But it doesn't bother me any more."

Right, Thurman.


TAMPA, Fla. -- Steve Tasker, special teams captain of the Buffalo Bills, began pouring praise on New York Giants' kick returner David Meggett yesterday.

Sunday, he will turn on the heat.

Tasker, a six-year veteran from Northwestern, leads the charg on the Bills' kick coverage teams. For the last two seasons, Meggett has been one of the NFL's most dangerous kick returners.

"He's the best return man in the NFL," Tasker said. "He's got th whole package. He's very elusive, can change direction and has running back's ability to make tough yardage.

"You have to give them a slight advantage [on special teams because they have a lot of Pro Bowlers," he added, referring to punter Sean Landeta and cover man Reyna Thompson.

Yet, when these two teams played Dec. 15, the Bills scored clear victory in the kicking game. Meggett, who averaged 10.9 yards returning punts this season, had two returns of 6 and 7 yards. Buffalo's Al Edwards had 89 yards on three kick returns and 6 yards on two punt returns.

* BOTTOM LINE: Giants coach Bill Parcells on the idea of prodding his team: "Motivation is overrated. If you win, you're a great motivator. If you lose, you don't know what you're doing."

* BASH BALL: In their last three postseason games, the Bill vTC have produced total yardage figures of 453, 493 and 502.

* STAR-SPANGLED: On playing during war time, Buffalo's Stev Tasker said: "The Super Bowl is a great symbol of the American attitude toward sports and toward life. I think it would undercut the morale of the troops if we didn't play."

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