Outside of an occasional University of Wisconsin basketball highlight, Joe Thomas hasn't watched sports since the NFL playoffs concluded. He's completely unplugged himself on his property in Wisconsin. Besides checking in briefly with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, Thomas has even kept his cell phone away from sight.
Thomas stopped by the Browns' facility last week for a Play 60 event and sat down with ClevelandBrowns.com
Q: How important will Alex Mack's return to the offensive line be?
Joe Thomas: Well he's obviously a huge part of our offense. Being the center, right in the middle of the offensive line, he's the one that makes all the calls on the line. He gets everybody lined up in protections and in the run game. He's a huge part and obviously he's the best center in the NFL. His loss (to an injury) last year really hurt us. Having him back will be a huge boost for the entire offense.
Q: There has been a lot of turnover on the Browns' offensive coaching staff this year, but not on the offensive line. Coaches Andy Moeller and George DeLeone are both back. How important is that continuity with your position coaches returning?
Joe Thomas:I think it's really important. The offensive line is all about cohesion and communication. That starts with the offensive line coaches and it trickles down to the players. Having the same guys teaching the same coaching methods is going to be a huge thing for us. For a guy like Joel Bitonio, I think that's really important. As a young player it's important to get your feet under yourself and have some consistency early in your career.
Q: What are your expectations of Mike Pettine in year two?
Joe Thomas:I'm really excited coach Pettine is back for his second season. I think he kind of surprised everybody in the NFL with the job he did in his first season. He proved that the job is not too big for him. He proved that he was definitely ready to be an NFL coach. I think he's going to make big strides in his second season. And I think you are going to see that in our win/loss record. He does a great job with his steady approach. He's not a roller coaster guy. He's very blunt. He tells you how it is. I think those are great attributes to have as an NFL coach.
Q: What are your initial thoughts on what wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline will bring to the Browns?
Joe Thomas:You look at those two guys and they are two different receivers. They both are really going to help us and fill a void and a need. Dwayne is a big, fast, physical receiver and he'll be a guy that can take a top off a defense. I think Brian is going to do a great job with a lot of the underneath stuff. He's going to be a great compliment in the slot to Andrew Hawkins.
Q: How else are you spending your off-time?
Joe Thomas: Well from February to April the most important thing, no matter what the pundits on ESPN tell you, is to get away from the game, mentally refocus and to spend time with your family. Because once April starts, it's pretty much a grind all the way until the end of the season in January. It's important to be refreshed and recharged.