The Cleveland Browns have seen a lot of turnover at the quarterback position over the years, but for over a decade now one man has been there to protect whoever was lining up under center: left tackle Joe Thomas.
A pro-bowler every year of his career since being drafted by the Browns with the third overall pick in 2007, Thomas has been one of the few constants in a franchise that can appear to outside observers to be in constant upheaval.
Thomas’ consistency is something unheard of in the NFL — he hasn’t missed a game, or even a single play for the entirety of his 10-year career — and on Sunday he passed the milestone of playing 10,000 consecutive snaps for the Browns.
It’s an impressive feat for any athlete, but it feels especially astounding coming from the Cleveland Browns, whose quarterback situation has been so volatile that the winningest QB in Cleveland since 1999 is actually Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers.
Despite so many men taking the reigns behind him over the course of his career, Thomas has proven to be a thoughtful teammate. In a recent piece for E:60, ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap quizzed Thomas to see if he could name all 18 starting quarterbacks that he had protected in his career with the Browns. He succeeded with flying colours.
While Thomas has a good recall of those who have started behind him, so many backups have come in for the Browns that he once had to introduce himself mid-game.
As Cleveland.com reported last year, in Week 17 of the 2012 season starter Thaddeus Lewis was sacked and knocked out of the game. With the Browns still in striking distance and facing fourth-and-nine, backup Josh Johnson came in to try and get the first down, having just been signed by the team two days earlier.
Thomas recalls getting back to the huddle and realising he didn’t know the man he was protecting. “I just said ‘I’m Joe Thomas, I’m your left tackle. Nice to meet you,'” said Thomas.
Johnson was sacked and fumbled on the play and the Browns finished the season 5-11.
After all the turnover Thomas has played through, the Browns hope that they have now found the longterm answer to their quarterbacking woes in rookie DeShone Kizer. So far this season, the second-round pick from Notre Dame has shown composure, but has struggled with turnovers, giving away three interceptions and a fumble on Sunday against the Ravens.
Still, Kizer in the future of the Browns, and hopes to add a bit of consistency to Thomas’ ever-changing football life. “That guy’s seen quite a few quarterbacks obviously,” Kizer told Cleveland.com. “My ultimate goal is for him to not see another one.”
The Cleveland Browns will have another shot at their first win of the season on Sunday when they face off against the Colts in Indianapolis.
10,000 consecutive snaps (and counting).
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