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Joe Thomas on the cusp of 10,000 straight snaps: 'It's kind of a weird thing to think about'

Joe Thomas doesn't have a tough time putting many things into words, but he struggled Thursday to describe the magnitude of his ongoing milestone.

Thomas hasn't missed a snap since he entered the NFL in 2007, and when he steps on the field Sunday against the Ravens he'll need just four more to hit 10,000.

It's believed the veteran left tackle set the NFL record for consecutively played snaps long ago -- snaps weren't tracked the way they are now, so there's not enough official data to know -- but the 10,000 benchmark struck a chord this week inside the Browns locker room and throughout the NFL.

Thomas approached questions about the feat Thursday with his trademark humor.

"I don't really think about it too much," Thomas said. "People have asked me more about it as I have gotten closer. It is hard to quantify. I don't know. It's kind of a weird thing to even think about."

From weirdness to absurdity to downright shock, Browns players and coach Hue Jackson expressed their reactions and emotions about Thomas' achievement throughout the week. The universal reaction, though, is deep respect for a player who has been the epitome of consistency, making 10 Pro Bowls in as many seasons while playing through multiple injuries and the "garden variety pain and anguish" that comes with playing in the NFL.

"We are talking about a guy who has never missed a snap. That is kind of unheard of," Jackson said. "I see guys come out for things where I go, 'Whoa'. Now, it amazes me if anybody ever comes out of a game having been around Joe Thomas and seeing what he has done. I think our players see that, too. I think a lot of that rubs off in our locker room. You talk about a guy who is an iron man? That is a true iron man. That is truly what it is all about."

Thomas is poised to reach the milestone while surrounded by the league's youngest roster, checking in with an average age under 25. The quarterback he's working with, DeShone Kizer, is the youngest of the many he's shared a huddle with over the past 11 seasons, but there's no shortage of appreciation from a player who was in elementary school when Thomas began his professional career.

Kizer, who checks in with 62 consecutive snaps to start his career, has tried to absorb everything he can from Thomas.

"I don't know if I have taken 10,000 snaps ever of football in my life, and he has done it in the NFL," Kizer said. "Obviously, he is a unicorn and he is going to have a gold coat coming soon. To be here alongside of him and to be a small piece of what he has been able to do in this league is an honor for me."

As he's done multiple times in the past, Thomas shared the story Thursday of the times he was closest to breaking the streak. He played through a torn LCL in Cleveland's 2012 season finale at Pittsburgh and was nearly pulled from the Browns' rout of the Steelers in 2014 before Thomas gruffly sent reserve Vinston Painter back to the sidelines.

Still, there have been plenty of moments that might have broken other players, but Thomas has a hard time identifying those because of the mindset he's carried since he started playing football.

"I think it was just something that was ingrained in me when I was a little kid. It was just all about being out there to help your teammates and doing everything you can to help the team win," Thomas said. "Fighting through pain and adversity. I never really considered not going out there and giving my all because I always felt that the team and my teammates relied on me to be out there. No matter what the conditions were or what situation the team was in, I always felt that it was my job to be out there.

"Unless I absolutely couldn't do it, I was going to be out there for those guys."

Much like Thomas couldn't identify particular snaps that stood out above the rest, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was similarly at a loss. To him, every one has been the same, and that's meant bad news for him.

For the 21st time, Thomas will square off against the Ravens on Sunday.

"He is an ultra-consistent player at a high level," Harbaugh said. "He always knows what to do. He never really makes a mistake. He is a great mover, strong, gifted guy always, but the other thing is you can always tell his leadership that he exudes out there.

"I think he should consider making a move toward the Hall of Fame and retire because we are getting tired of playing against him, but he is a great player and a great guy."

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