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Thomas named to Pro Bowl

Posted Dec 28, 2010

Left tackle Joe Thomas was named to his fourth straight Pro Bowl Tuesday night.

For a fourth consecutive year, left tackle Joe Thomas has earned a spot on the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster. The players for the NFL’s all-star game were revealed Tuesday evening on the NFL Network.

Thomas is the first Browns offensive lineman to appear in four straight Pro Bowls since Pro Football Hall of Famer, the late Gene Hickerson, played in six consecutive all-star games from 1966-1971. Defensive back Frank Minnifield was the last Browns player to appear in four straight Pro Bowls.

Minnifield played in those Pro Bowls from 1987-1990. In three of those seasons, he played opposite fellow Browns defensive back Hanford Dixon.

“I'm really excited,” Thomas said. “It's a great honor to represent the Cleveland Browns in my fourth straight Pro Bowl.

“It never gets old,” he added. “It’s such a great honor, such a great week to be out there with the best in the NFL and it never gets old. That’s for sure.”

Thomas is also one of 19 Browns to earn four or more Pro Bowl trips and the fifth offensive lineman to do so. Lou Groza (1951-56), Abe Gibron (1953-56), Dick Schafrath (1964-69) and Hickerson (1966-71) are the other offensive linemen to accomplish the feat.

In four years with the Browns, Thomas has blocked for three 1,000-yard seasons by a running back.

During 2007 and 2008, Jamal Lewis ran for 1,304 and 1,002 yards respectively. Through 15 games this year, Peyton Hillis has followed Thomas’ blocks for 1,164 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Hillis was only the third player in team history to run for 11 touchdowns in a season and the first since 1968, when Pro Football Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly reached the mark.

The Browns have five 100-yard rushing performances and average 4.0 yards-per-carry this fall.

“I’m always working on the small things and always trying to understand the bigger picture better, formations in defenses and how they want to play you, things like that,” said Thomas. “I’ve really focused a lot this year in improving my technique in the run game and I think it paid off.”

Prior to Thomas’ arrival in Cleveland, the Browns had just one 1,000-yard running back since Kevin Mack posted an 1,104-yard season in 1985. Reuben Droughns ran for 1,232 yards during the 2005 season and averaged 4.0 yards-per-carry.

Since 2007, Thomas and the Browns have surrendered 105 sacks over 63 games. Opponents registered 100 sacks against the Browns during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the two years immediately preceding Thomas’ arrival at left tackle.

Thomas and the other NFL all-stars will return to Hawaii for this season’s Pro Bowl on January 30, 2011. After a one-year stint in Miami Florida, the game will again be played at Aloha Stadium in the state capital of Honolulu.

“I'm excited it's going back to Hawaii,” he said. “I think that's where it should be; that's where it's been for a long time. The players and their families really enjoy it the most when it’s out there.”

SEVEN NAMED ALTERNATES

Hillis and offensive linemen Alex Mack and Eric Steinbach were named second alternates, while kick return specialist Joshua Cribbs, special teamer Ray Ventrone and fullback Lawrence Vickers were selected as third alternates. Rookie defensive back Joe Haden was named a fourth alternate.

“I think there was a number of guys that definitely deserved it and I was disappointed some of them didn’t make it, namely Alex Mack, Eric Steinbach and Peyton Hillis, I thought should definitely have been on there,” Thomas said. “You never know how the voting’s going to go; it’s always a little crazy.”

Depending on what teams make the Super Bowl or if players back out of the game due to injury, the Browns could get more players to the Pro Bowl.

“One of the positives of having it before (the Super Bowl) is one of those guys who are first or second alternates do get a chance to get called up and experience what it is one of the highlights of many peoples’ careers.”

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