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Thomas balances fatherhood, football

Posted Aug 2, 2013

BEREA, Ohio -- In February, Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas became a father for the first time, and it was an experience that changed the six-time Pro Bowler’s life.

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns have just completed a training-camp practice, and as players jog toward the locker room to change and get ready for meetings, a sweat-covered Joe Thomas sprints off the field and straight to the family hospitality tent.

There, he will do something that he has done many times in this and previous camps, and that’s greet his wife, Annie.

But Thomas also is doing something that he hasn’t had the chance to do during any other training camp: spend time with their six-month-old daughter, Logan.

Unlike some NFL teams that travel away from home for training camp, the Browns hold their practices at their team headquarters.

“That’s the great part about having training camp close to home,” Thomas said. “The kids and the families do get to come every day, and you do get to spend a couple minutes with them. It’s a great reward for making it through a sometimes long, sometimes hot practice.”

Thomas found reporting to training camp last month particularly tough because it meant having to spend weeks away from his wife and daughter, and living in a hotel with his teammates and coaches. That makes the half-hour he gets to spend with his wife and daughter after practice even more special.

“This is the stage in (a child’s) development where they’re starting to kind of recognize faces and starting to make noises," Thomas said. "It’s really fun because you just see how much they develop every, single day. It’s amazing how different they can be in two or three days, the way they grow at such a rapid pace. It’s unbelievable.

“A lot of people don’t totally understand the time we commit to this game, especially in training camp. Fans come out and watch us out on the field for two-and-a-half hours, three hours, and they sometimes think we go home after its over or a couple hours of meetings, but they don’t realize that just about every day in training camp is a 14-hour day, and we don’t get to go home at the end of it.

“We go to a hotel, wake up and do it all over again. We stay in the hotel until the third preseason game, so it’s not like we get to go home and see our family very much. It makes it really difficult, especially when you have kids because they’re so important to you. Being able to see your child every day is such an important, special part of your day, and when you don’t get to do that, it makes it tough. It makes training camp a little more difficult.”

For Thomas, his daughter’s birth was a “phenomenal” experience that has had a profound impact on his life.

“The day my daughter was born was the best day of my life, and a hundred times better than anything athletically that I’ve achieved, team-wise, individually,” Thomas said. “Anything in my entire life, nothing can possibly compare to the day one of your children was born. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened in my life. People say that it’ll change your life, but you don’t really know what that means until you actually experience it because it really does.

“A lot of the linemen I’ve been around have had girls, and they melt your heart on the day they’re born. They’re so special. I don’t want to say it makes you soft, but it does because your daughter just melts your heart.”

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