The greatest left tackle of his generation, Joe Thomas, is retiring.
It’s not a surprise, as there have been rumors and theories for weeks that Thomas would be ending his NFL career, the entire balance of it spent with the Cleveland Browns.
The third overall pick in 2007, Thomas was immediately installed as the Browns’ starting left tackle and didn’t miss a snap for more than a decade. Despite all of the losses Cleveland endured during his tenure, he famously never left the field until he absolutely had to, on Oct. 22, 2017.
That’s the day Cleveland was playing the Tennessee Titans, and during a third-quarter play, as Thomas was engaged with defensive lineman Brian Orakpo, he grabbed the back of his upper left arm.
It was a torn triceps.
Thomas underwent season-ending surgery. As it turns out, it was his final play. He had played an NFL-record 10,363 consecutive snaps.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, but the right one for me and my family,” Thomas said in a statement released on the Browns’ website. “Playing in the NFL has taken a toll on my body and I can no longer physically compete at the level I need to.”
“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 also made a video for fans:
Undoubtedly one of the very best players in Cleveland history, the Browns will enshrine Thomas’ No. 73 in their Ring of Honor during the 2018 season.
Team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement, “Joe has been a pillar of our organization and one of the greatest to put on a Cleveland Browns uniform. We want to thank him for everything he has done for the Browns and the Northeast Ohio community. We should all strive for the standard Joe has set to always be available, put the team above yourself and always give maximum effort. One of the first ways we will acknowledge and honor his accomplishments is to enshrine the number 10,363 to recognize his consecutive snaps streak in the team’s Ring of Honor at a home game this season. It also won’t be long before he takes his rightful place down the road in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
The 33-year-old Wisconsin native was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons, and was named to the first- or second-team Associated Press All-Pro teams in each of his first nine seasons.
But for as good as Thomas was, the Browns as a team were never up to his level: Cleveland never made the playoffs during his time, and Thomas experienced a winning season only once, his rookie year. Cleveland was 48-119 when he was in uniform.
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