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Joe Thomas named finalist for Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award

CLEVELAND — Despite a season-ending injury, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas remains the face of a young Browns team and one of the league's most-influential figures.

For that, Thomas was named one of eight finalists for the 2017 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award on Monday, joining Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, Jets quarterback Josh McCown, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Lions defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and 49ers offensive lineman Joe Staley.

Thomas, who has been nominated for the award before, is a first-time finalist.

Created in 2014 in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney Sr., the award recognizes players around the league who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field.

Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler, played 10,363 consecutive snaps before suffering a triceps injury against the Titans in October. He was placed on injured reserve later that week. Since then, the veteran has remained close to the team and lent his leadership on and off the field. ​

"He is a mentor to a lot of these guys in a lot of different ways," coach Hue Jackson said earlier this season. "This is still his team. Having him around and having him want to be a part of that is very important to me, to our players, to our staff and to all involved."

The winner of the NFL Sportsmanship Award is determined by a vote of current NFL players. A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community will select eight finalists (four in the AFC and four in the NFC) from the 32 nominees. The panel is comprised of Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.

The winner, which will be selected by the vote of the players, will be announced during the NFL Honors show on Saturday, Fec. 3 on NBC, the night before Super Bowl LII. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.

Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald won the inaugural award in 2014 and Colts running back Frank Gore won it last season.

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