If there's a silver lining to the season-ending injury that sidelined Joe Thomas, the Browns' ironclad left tackle, it has two parts.
The first is how it has allowed Thomas, the 10-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer, to sow the seeds of a promising career in the sports media and entertainment industry. The second part of that silver lining is how it offered Thomas a different perspective on football for the first time in his 11-year career. Thomas, who played 10,363 consecutive snaps before suffering a triceps injury against the Titans in October, suddenly became something of a coach and consultant for Cleveland. He embraced the role immediately.
"It was a side of the game and side of everything I've never seen before," he said. "I really enjoyed being around the guys and coaching them up, helping guys on defense."
Thomas, who remains undecided if he’ll return for his 12th season, outlined that experience last month at the Greater Cleveland Sports awards, where he was honored for his historical snap streak. That's one of the many dynamics that make Thomas one of the league's best players. Another is a laser focus that doesn't waver, regardless of what's happening on the field.
For once, he said, the chance to get caught in the moment was a new and exciting feeling.
"I enjoyed watching the game because as a left tackle, when I'm playing in the game, I'm just sitting there focused on nothing but what I have to do each play," he said. "I'm not watching the quarterback, I'm not watching the replays of receivers catching the ball. I'm not getting excited about touchdowns. I'm not getting disappointed about fumbles, I'm not watching the defense whatsoever because all those things would have a negative impact on my focus and my job."
Unable to physically contribute, Thomas emerged as a mentor to younger teammates, including rookie defensive end and first-overall NFL Draft pick Myles Garrett. He also made clear he's their biggest fan.
"For me to be able to stand on the sideline and get excited about a Myles Garrett sack and talk to him about how he could get an advantage, that was a lot of fun," Thomas said. "I really enjoyed it."