Joe Thomas is one of the greatest lineman to ever play in the NFL. He is easily one of the 5 greatest left tackles of all time and has enjoyed a run of being the NFL’s premier left tackle for almost a decade. No doubt Canton is waiting in the wings for big No. 73 whenever he decides to hang up his Size 15 cleats.
Joe Thomas was selected by the Browns with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft out of the University of Wisconsin. Although not regarded as the best player in the draft at that time, there’s no question that he has outdone just about everyone (except maybe Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson) in his draft class.
In 11 dominant seasons as the Cleveland Browns’ starting left tackle, he has never missed a game until the 2017 season, has go to an unprecedented 10 consecutive Pro Bowls, and had a legendary streak of consecutive snaps played that will probably never be duplicated with 10,363.
The way the streak ended, however was probably more brutal due to the fact that I was in attendance for the game that afternoon. Thomas had suffered a triceps tear while finishing a block of DE Jurrell Casey in the middle of the 3rd quarter of a 12-9 loss against the Tennessee Titans. I had never heard FirstEnergy Stadium so utterly quiet.
He had season ending surgery the following Monday. Since then, the 33-year old has used his down time to mull over his future as well as being an advocate for the Browns’ latest personnel changes. He’s even gone out of his way to try to lure in free agents. It’s apparent that his heart is still in Cleveland, but does he have the spirit to lace up the cleats again?
Joe Thomas had been hinting at retirement as early as 2015 after playing all of 2014 with a torn MCL. The then 30-year old stated in a candid interview that he had been experiencing symptoms of CTE.
Put that with the fact that the Cleveland Browns have won only 38 games after his rookie season, in which the Browns went 10-6 and still missed the playoffs in addition to that, who could really blame him?
As a fan, I want nothing more than to see him out there on the field. However, us fans tend to get caught up in the sport and we forget that these players go through one of the absolute hardest of grinds. These players are human, also. They have lives outside of football. They have children. They have wives. They have other goals and aspirations. Life in football simply isn’t built to last forever.
In my humble and honest opinion, he is the 3rd greatest athlete to play sports professionally in the city of Cleveland behind LeBron James and the great Jim Brown. He has played through immense pain, put his body and mind at risk, and has been an advocate for this city his entire time as a member of the Cleveland Browns. His contributions to this team, this organization, and this city will never be forgotten.
If this is the last ride, which I 145% think it is, I wish him nothing but the best with his future endeavors. I thank him from the absolute bottom of my heart for staying loyal to a city that he never needed to be loyal to begin with. The city of Cleveland thanks you, Joe. You are simply the best. Forever and Always, a Cleveland Brown.