KJ: Joe, I don't like starting interviews on a sour note, but your best friend Alex Mack breaks his leg last week against the Steelers. How do collect yourself on the field, knowing that immediately after Mack gets carted off you have to get it together and start playing right away? And how big of a loss is this for the Browns?
Joe Thomas: It's such a tough loss. There are no other Alec Mack's in the NFL. He's the best center in the league. So losing somebody like that, it's impossible to replace him. But throughout an NFL season, there's going to be injuries. You are going to lose key players. The next man really has to be ready. Football is a game where the backups are going to play.
KJ: If Joel Bitonio keeps playing this way, are there Pro Bowls in his future? What's the biggest thing you've taught him and is there anything he has taught you?
Joe Thomas: Joel has done an outstanding job. Coming in as a rookie, not many guys can play right away on the offensive line. Few are ever going to play as well as Joel has been playing. I definitely will be the first person beating my chest to send Joel to the Pro Bowl, because I really think he deserves it. But I will say the one thing Joel and I have been talking about since he got here is the preparation aspect. How to prepare for practices, how to approach each game differently – kind of the mindset to get through a 16 game NFL season.
KJ: Has Kyle Shanahan's run offense been everything you expected and then some? In terms of offensive line play, is it the best you've been a part of?
Joe Thomas: There's no doubting that this is one of the greatest offensive systems in the NFL for running the ball, putting the offensive linemen in great positions to succeed. I think so far, he's actually exceeded my expectations in terms of how the offense has played and the way Kyle has implemented the offense.
KJ: 26.8 points per game for this Browns offense. How do you sustain that?
Joe Thomas: Well, it's going to be tough. That's a high standard. That's a lot of points to score on a weekly basis, let alone have it be your average over five games. It's going to be tougher from here on out because we're going to have a little more of a target on our back, due to the fact that we are scoring points, running the ball and even throwing the ball well.
KJ: How calming of a presence is it knowing the Browns have a reliable quarterback in Brian Hoyer?
Joe Thomas: He's got a lot of confidence. He's the type of player that if he makes a bad throw, he will immediately forget about it. He'll still throw the ball down there again and take chances. He has the type of confidence you see in other great quarterbacks around the NFL.
KJ: Why has this team bought into Coach Pettine and his staff so quickly?
Joe Thomas: Well you look all across the board, and the coaching staff is all so talented. Specifically on offense, the job that Kyle Shanahan has done and the history he has in the NFL – he grew up around the game – and his offense has been proven wherever he's been. And then you look at the job coach Pettine has done. He's been able to keep us focused every week, through different challenges and distractions. As a first year head coach, he's been tremendous with his messaging each and every week.
KJ: As a seven-time Pro Bowler, you've reached the point now where you get some days of rest during the week of practice. What's that like?
Joe Thomas: Well I think it's really important for me to get prepared for Sunday's to have that one extra day off to kind of recover from the week before. I feel I'm at a point in my career where the mental side of things can be taken care of pretty well in the classroom. And I don't need to see as much of it in full speed in practices, where a younger guy might. This extra rest will allow me to play better, especially later on in the season.
KJ: Coach Pettine said we will find out how mature the Cleveland Browns are if the team can take care of business against the Jaguars. Do you agree?
Joe Thomas: No doubt. We've won two games in a row. It's always easy to rest on your morals and forget about the work you did to get to this point. It'll be a test this weekend to see if we can win three games in a row and keep that same level of commitment we've had to get to 4-2.
KJ: Joe Thomas, the Cleveland Browns will beat the Jacksonville Jaguars if ____`
Joe Thomas: We run the ball well (laughter).