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Thomas a leader up front

Posted Jun 7, 2012

Joe Thomas is the Browns’ most tenured offensive lineman as the team approaches the 2012 season.

Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has played five seasons in the NFL, and already he is the team’s most-tenured offensive lineman.

During the offseason, the Browns parted ways with veterans Eric Steinbach and Tony Pashos and added both Mitchell Schwartz and Ryan Miller through the 2012 NFL Draft. Even with the youth up front, Thomas feels good about the offensive line of the Browns.

“I think it’s going to be the strength of this offense for years to come,” Thomas said after the team’s last minicamp practice Thursday. “I’m the oldest guy and this is only my sixth year, so I think we can have a really solid unit for a long time.”

Thomas, who signed a long-term extension with the Browns last August, agreed to stay in Cleveland because he believed in the system. That belief in the direction of the team has only grown throughout the 2012 offseason.

“I see big things for us,” Thomas said. “We’re a really young team. We’re a team that’s got excellent coaching. We’ve got a lot of great talent and have had good drafts every, single year. Those are the types of things you need to compete in the AFC North and I think that’s the direction we’re going in. There’s a lot of potential and there’s a lot of young players, so the future looks really bright for us.”

In addition to drafting Schwartz and Miller, the Browns selected running back Trent Richardson (University of Alabama) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) with their two first-round picks in April.

Richardson ran for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior for the national championship-winning Crimson Tide. When asked about blocking for Richardson, Thomas said he was “excited.”

“Just watching him out here, he’s done a really nice job for us and shown a lot of potential, so I’m excited to see him when he gets the pads on,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to put the expectations too high, but he’s obviously had a great college career and he’s showing some really good things right now. Hopefully, we can open some holes for him and get him up there in the top of the NFL every year.”

While Thomas may be the oldest offensive lineman, he is actually younger than one of the leaders in the Browns’ offensive huddle. Weeden is a 28-year old rookie who spent several years in baseball in the New York Yankees organization.

Although there have been just three days of minicamp and six organized team activity sessions, Thomas has seen leadership from Weeden.

“It’s not like he’s a rookie, really,” Thomas said. “He’s a smart guy as it is, but having that little bit of age under his belt, it doesn’t feel like he’s a 21, 22-year old quarterback stepping into the huddle. He has a sense that he’s been there. That’s kind of what you expect your quarterback to do and it’s nice to see him do those things.”

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