CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Joe Thomas’ season is over.
Those are 4 words that no one in their right mind would ever think would be uttered, but here the Browns are.
The news feared most by the organization and fans was realized Monday after MRI test results confirmed Thomas suffered a torn triceps tendon with 5:44 left in the third quarter before the Browns fell in overtime to the Tennessee Titans 12-9. Thomas was placed on injured reserve Monday evening.
“It is hard to replace someone like him,” head coach Hue Jackson said Monday. “We know that. We will have to adjust and do some things differently, and we will.”
The loss of Thomas sent shock-waves through the youngest team in the NFL that is already reeling from an 0-7 start to the season and mired in a 1-22 stretch under Jackson.
“The last time that Joe wasn’t playing here, I was probably in fifth or sixth grade,” rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “That is something that is new for us. We are going to see how his presence not only on the field but off the field is going to help our offensive line and perform at a higher level.”
Thomas expects to have surgery on Tuesday before going through 6-9 months of rehab and deciding whether or not to play out the final year of his contract or retire.
“I guess I felt like I was having one of the best seasons of my career,” Thomas said. “I felt like our offensive line was playing well and we were really gelling together. I was having a lot of fun. I didn’t feel like I was losing any of my physical skills, that’s for sure. I felt like I was playing at the top of my game.”
The injury was a stunning end to a spectacular run that will likely never be matched again.
“I think he has as strong and positive of a reputation among the players in the league as anybody,” center JC Tretter, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent in the offseason, said. “I think he is well liked, well respected. Obviously, an iron man. I think everybody around the league would pass along their sympathies and feel bad for him. They know what he has meant to this team, this city and this organization so it is a tough day. It is a tough day.”
The Browns have had many tough days over the years, but Monday was different.
Thomas’ consecutive snaps streak ended at 10,363, his consecutive starts streak ended at 167 games and his consecutive Pro Bowl selections is also over at 10 in a row the moment he went down.
“It’s definitely surreal,” Thomas said. “Obviously, you don’t ever expect to get injured, but as a football player you always understand the realities of the violent sport that we play. That at any moment it can be taken away from you and you could be sitting on the bench and rehabbing an injury. In the back of your mind you’re always prepared for it, but you’re not always ready for it.”
Thomas was the lone bright spot for a franchise that has floundered in failure for 19 years since being reborn in 1999 and he will one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame which sits just 40 minutes south of Cleveland 5 years after he decides to hang up the cleats, which might be sooner rather than later.
Since being drafted third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has blocked for 20 different starting quarterbacks, played for 6 different head coaches while the Browns managed to just win 48 games and lose an astounding 119.
Jackson plans to stick with Spencer Drango this week to take Thomas’ place at left tackle.
“We will keep talking about it as a staff and see if we need to shuffle some guys around, but what I don’t want to do is take one position and then all of a sudden have issues at other positions,” Jackson said. “We may stand pat with that and put Spencer over there and do some things offensively to help. Then when we get back from our game in London during our bye, we will discuss what we think is best moving forward for those last eight games. That is where we are right now.”
Now the Browns have to move on without arguably the heart and soul of the team revered by many as one of the all-time greats alongside Jim Brown in franchise history.
“We have to get over it quick because nobody else cares about that,” Jackson said. “I just think in our locker room you are used to having him in there, seeing him in there and knowing he is going to play. He has been iron man. You walk out there, Joe Thomas is on the field ready to go. Our players, we need to get past that as fast as we can. We don’t have that safety net anymore. He is not going to be here playing the rest of this season.
“As fast as we can, we have to turn that corner.”