The Browns are honoring Joe Thomas this weekend as the former Browns left tackle and future Hall of Famer returns for something of a homecoming.
Thomas, the 10-time Pro Bowler who retired this past spring, will be honored during Sunday’s home game against the Chargers for both his impact on and off the field.
Coach Hue Jackson will be among those welcoming Thomas back to FirstEnergy Stadium with wide open arms.
Jackson, who coached Thomas for two seasons here, continues to be marveled at the legacy the ironclad offensive lineman left behind before a season-ending injury last year.
“As my time here with one of the greatest players — to me that’s ever played the game at left tackle here in Cleveland — was special to me. Watching Joe from afar, then having the chance to coach him, I understand why all of you guys thought that he was so special as a person,” Jackson said.
“When watching him as a player and watching a guy who wouldn’t take a play off. I don’t care what the aches were or what the situation was, until he could not physically do it anymore. I will never forget walking on that field when he was down there and him not being able to get up and understanding that this might be it. To watch and look back on his career, and see what he has done, man that’s amazing to me.
The Browns will enshrine the number “10,363” — Thomas’ improbably consecutive snap streak — into the team’s Ring of Honor and celebrate an 11-year career that spanned highs, lows and everything in between. No matter the situation, Thomas showed up to work every day and was a consistent force amid constant change over the years.
“Nobody else has ever played that many snaps, and I don’t know if anybody else will do that again for a long time. It just tells you how important football was to him,” Jackson said.
“To go through all of the seasons that he went through when things didn't go well, that doesn’t happen in this league and I think that we all know that.”
Thomas is the first player to be acknowledged in the Ring of Honor since it was established in 2010. He’ll also be the team’s honorary Dawg Pound Captain and have his snap number formally unveiled after a career highlight video.
While it might still be weird to not see Thomas, who stepped away last March, out on the field, Jackson can’t fathom a time when he’s forgotten.
“I think what he’s done – the way he played, the way that he conducted himself with class within this organization, the way he conducted himself out in the community, all of the good things that he did for this football team – will never be forgotten,” he said.
“Joe Thomas is a class person and a great, great football player.”