End of an era: Joe Thomas retires from the NFL
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas retired from the team on Wednesday, ending an 11-year career that will see its next stop be the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The inevitable became a reality on Wednesday afternoon.
Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is retiring from the NFL after 11 seasons.
For a team that is still digging its way out of a 1-31 hole dug over the past two seasons, the news is tough to take, even if everyone knew the day was coming.
Thomas announced the news with a nod to the fans on the team’s website:
"“From the moment I was drafted, the city embraced me in a way that I could never fully describe. I am proud to call Cleveland home. The loyalty and passion of the fans is unmatched and it was an honor to play in front of them from the past 11 years. I would like to thank all of the coaches, teammates, staff, fans and everyone who has shown me support throughout my career. Even though I will be hanging up my cleats, I will always be a Cleveland Brown.”"
Thomas was a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, probably the one positive move during then-general manager Phil Savage’s four years in charge of the team. From the moment he stepped on the field as a rookie, Thomas set a standard for tackle play the likes of which have never been seen in the NFL and may never be seen again.
He played 10,363 consecutive snaps for a Browns team that only had one winning season during his career – and that came during his rookie year. Thomas saw the streak snapped last October when he tore a triceps muscle while putting in some extra effort on a block against the Tennessee Titans.
Even in the midst of endless losing, countless head coaches and front office reboots, and more quarterbacks than anyone should be tasked with remembering, Thomas was always there giving the extra effort, even if it was in a losing cause.
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The Browns will honor the consecutive snaps streak this fall by enshrining the number in the team’s Ring of Honor (similar to the way the Cleveland Indians honored the 455-game sellout streak), but that is not the only number that defines Thomas’ career:
- Thomas retires having started 167 consecutive games for the Browns, the longest streak among current offensive linemen in the NFL.
- He also earned a Pro Bowl nod 10 times, a team record that surpasses the nine Pro Bowls earned by Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Lou Groza.
- The only other players to earn 10 Pro Bowls are Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Mel Renfro and Merlin Olsen.
- Thomas earned a first-team spot on the league’s All-Pro team seven times.
There is no doubt that Thomas should be a first-ballot selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023. On that August weekend he will become the 17th member of the Browns to earn induction into the hall and it will be a weekend the likes of which Canton has never seen.
The franchise will continue on, of course, the way every team does when one of its players retires.
Next: Browns to sign CB Terrance Mitchell
But Sunday afternoons this fall are going to look very different when the Browns break the offensive huddle and No. 73 is not taking his spot at left tackle.
Thank you, Joe Thomas, for always being there when the Browns and the fans needed you.