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The View From Pluto: The Face Of The Browns Franchise You Rarely Notice On The Field

Joe Thomas
Wikimedia Commons

The best player in Cleveland Browns recent history is one you rarely notice on the field. Joe Thomas is heading into his eleventh season with the Browns, and much like the team during that span, he’s been battered. Still, Thomas remains loyal to Cleveland.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about how future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas sees the game. 

The position
Pluto says Joe Thomas is perhaps the best left tackle in NFL history. Left tackles don’t get much attention during the game, because they aren’t doing anything flashy -- except protecting the quarterback.

“He basically plays the game and never sees the ball,” Pluto says. “Most quarterbacks are right handed. So when a quarterback goes to throw, he doesn’t see anything coming from the left. The left tackle is the most valuable member of the offensive line.”

"He basically plays the game and never sees the ball."

Nearly 9,000 plays
The Browns drafted Thomas with the third overall pick in 2007.  He’s been to 10 Pro Bowls, a first for any offensive lineman.

And, perhaps most remarkable, Thomas has never missed a snap during the regular season. That’s 9,339 plays, Pluto says.

Still, in all that time on the field, Pluto says Thomas has only touched the ball two or three times.

“He says he rarely even sees who carries the ball or who catches the ball,” Pluto says.  

A lot of surgeries
All that playing time takes its toll on the body.

“He doesn’t even know how many knee surgeries he’s had. Five? Six? Four? He gives different answers all the time,” Pluto says.

This season, Thomas doesn't participate in practice and didn't play in any preseason games.

“He says, ‘If you want me for 60 minutes on the field on Sunday, I can’t give you a whole bunch during practice.’” Still, Pluto says Thomas spends a lot of time at the training facility swimming and doing water aerobics. 

“Very few players could get away with this, but very few players play every regular season snap and very few have been to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls,” Pluto says. “It’s amazing he hasn’t walked in there in Berea and said, ‘Get me out of here; I’m so tired of losing.’”

"He wants to be...more than just the great player on some of the worst teams the Browns have ever had."

Bad teams
The Browns are 48-112 since Thomas joined the team. He’s been through six coaches, six general managers, two owners and about 20 quarterbacks.

Pluto says the Browns thought about trading Thomas a few years ago, but they ended up turning down an offer from Denver. Then, the new front office came in and traded a lot of older players, and Pluto thought Thomas could go again. 

“But after talking with Thomas, Coach Hue Jackson and new General Manager Sashi Brown wanted him here. Brown said, ‘[Thomas] wants to be here. He will help with our younger guys.’ In the last two years, he’s probably done more interviews than ever before. They’ve encouraged him to go out there because he says all the right things.”

Pluto says Thomas’ story is uplifting.

“He’s loyal. He likes Cleveland. He wants to be a part of the history -- as more than just as the great player on some of the worst teams the Browns have ever had.”

“He has two more years on his contract and wants to retire a Brown and hope the team gets better.”

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.