Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl left tackle
After completing the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp Thursday afternoon, Thomas turned his focus to Washington, D.C., and more specifically, the Pentagon. Thomas took part in the Military-NFL Culture Change Campaign focus group to test strategic insights, creative elements and give guidance regarding tactics and program execution, as well as finding a campaign theme and associated messaging when it comes to traumatic brain injuries.
“It was all about bringing the military and the NFL together to try to brainstorm ways to educate our people about the dangers of traumatic brain injuries and what ways we can educate people so they can stand up and come forward if they’ve had a traumatic brain injury or concussion,” Thomas said after returning to Cleveland Friday evening. “I was the only active player that was there today and it felt good being able to have a voice and be able to share my opinions on an issue that’s important to me.”
Thomas was joined on the trip by former NFL running back Brian Westbrook (Philadelphia, San Francisco), defensive linemen Hollis Thomas (Philadelphia, New Orleans, St. Louis and Carolina) and Mike Rucker (Carolina) and offensive lineman Courtney Hall (San Diego). Eric Mangini, the former coach of the Browns and New York Jets, Drs. Andrew Tucker and Anthony Casolaro, the head team physicians for the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, respectively, and Sonia Gysland, the assistant athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also participated in Friday’s group.
“(The military has) gone through a lot of the same things we have and they share a lot of the same characteristics that we have as far as not wanting to pull themselves off of the battlefield and not always wanting to stand up because of toughness and being macho,” Thomas said. “It’s important to get together with them and share ideas on how to overcome those things and overcome some of the stigmas for sitting out with concussions.”
Eight representatives from the United States Army, including Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, a Lieutenant Colonel and Major and five from the United States Marine Corps, a Major, Captain, Corporal, Gunnery Sergeant and Corpsman were part of the focus group, led by Major-General Steve Lanza, Chief of Army Public Affairs and moderated by the NFL’s head of research and fan insights, Alicia Rankin.
For Thomas, being at the Pentagon was the latest in a long line of events he has participated in with the United States military. During the 2010 offseason, Thomas joined the NFL-USO Tour to visit military bases in the Middle East and also took part in a dinner with military families who had loved ones on deployment overseas.
“I always jump at the opportunity to do anything I can to help the military and support their efforts,” Thomas said. “For me, it was an exciting day because I did get a chance to go in an NFL capacity and hopefully, help out today’s military and the future military.”