In February 2000, the Buffalo Bills said goodbye to their all-time leading rusher when they released Thurman Thomas after 12 seasons, five Pro Bowls, and two All-Pro teams. His release isn't the 25th-worst moment in team history, however.
On March 7, 2000, Thomas didn't just find a new team when he signed a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Miami Dolphins - he signed with a hated rival. Thomas has stated he still hates the Dolphins more than any other team because of his time with the Bills, fighting them for AFC East supremacy year in and year out. Despite his righteous feelings, he called Miami home for one season.
He faced his former teammates in Buffalo once. In a 22-13 Miami win, Thomas gained 24 yards on seven rushes and 26 yards on three receptions as Miami's second running back. He outgained any Buffalo running back that day, with Sammy Morris managing 17 yards, Shawn Bryson only four, and Jonathan Linton a scant 11.
When I asked him in October why he signed with the Dolphins, Thomas, obviously frustrated with the question, responded, "I'll answer one more time: the same reason everyone gets a new job when they get fired."
Thomas was very pleased to stick it to an organization he thought did him wrong. Thomas says he found out about his release not by hearing from owner Ralph Wilson or GM John Butler, but by reading it on the news scroll while watching ESPN2.
I told Thurman about his spot on the list and inquired if he would like to comment on his year in Miami. His response could chill a Bills fan's bones:
"Awesome, I loved it, plus we beat u guys twice. Sweet revenge against management."
It was a truly sad chapter in Buffalo Bills history, and an unfortunate side effect of the salary cap era.