Progress can be measured in many ways.
In the view of five-time Pro Bowl left tackle,
“I think we’re greatly improved over where we were last year and we’re able to put a lot more things in and be quite a bit more advanced right now versus where we were at this time last year in training camp,” Thomas said following a recent training camp practice.
“When you go back and you watch in the film room, there’s always tons of things to correct and there were times when it got a little bit sloppy, but it’s early in camp. Right now, it’s all about making the improvements and running around, having the energy. Those are the things you look for early in camp.”
Thomas did not miss a snap in his first five seasons with the Browns and started all 80 of the games the team played over that time. He reached the Pro Bowl in each of his first five NFL seasons.
Even with those experiences of consistently being in the lineup to guard the blind side for the Browns’ quarterbacks and making five all-star appearances, Thomas felt like 2011 was his rookie season all over again.
There was a 132-day work stoppage which prevented the Browns from having an offseason with the new coaching staff, headed up by Pat Shurmur.
“Not only do we have a year under our belt with the West Coast offense, we had an offseason,” Thomas said. “That was huge, because last year was my fifth season, but it was still like being a rookie again coming into training camp. We had a totally new offense. Everything was brand new for us, new coaches, so it was learning from day one, but this year is totally different.”
While Thomas was used to the NFL game, he had to help break in a rookie left guard,
Browns coach Pat Shurmur sees Pinkston’s production next to Thomas as a way to help the whole offensive line continue building its chemistry.
“He’s another guy that it’s a little bit different mindset for him coming in,” Shurmur said of Pinkston. “He’s pretty much in there playing now. There’s really no confusion about, ‘Am I playing on the right side, left side?’ He’s in there playing, and he’s playing next to Joe, and there is synergy. When you get those five guys playing together a long time, then, the unit tends to get better as the individuals get better.”
Richardson ran for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns during his final season at the University of Alabama, while Hardesty came into camp fully healthy after battling back from a season-ending knee injury in the 2010 preseason and a nagging calf issue in the middle of 2011.
“It’s really exciting because they obviously are really good running backs,” Thomas said. “To have a stable of them like that is going to be tremendous coming up this fall.”