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Joe Thomas, uncertain about playing future, bullish about the Browns' direction

CLEVELAND — Joe Thomas remains undecided about his future but has a clear view of the one facing the Browns.

The Browns left tackle said Wednesday night he's still mulling retirement after a triceps injury in October cut the future Hall of Famer's season short.

"We're making progress. Had a lot of time to think and spend some time with the family, but not ready definitively to make a decision one way or the other just yet," Thomas said. "My decision is just going to come down to 'do I feel like I'm healthy enough to survive another season.'"

Thomas, who went down against the Titans on Oct. 22 while run-blocking, had previously never missed a snap in his 11-year career. The 10-time Pro Bowler played 10,363 consecutive plays and eclipsed the 10,000-mark in September. Thomas, who was a presenter at the Greater Cleveland Sports awards, was honored for that milestone during the annual show.

Regardless of what he decides in the coming months, Thomas believes the future is bright in Cleveland despite a challenging past two years. Coming off the franchise's first winless season, Thomas believes it's possible for the Browns to dramatically turn things around, given they possess two top-five picks in the upcoming NFL Draft and ample room to sign top-shelf talent in free agency.

"​Honestly, the way I look at it for the Browns is $100 million in cap space, the first and fourth overall picks," Thomas said, pointing to the team's potential to add multiple impact players through various avenues. If you do that, he said, "you've totally transformed your team ... your team is really, really good all of the sudden overnight. And, really, if we're talking about where we were last year as a team, we weren't all that far from winning a game."

Thomas said he recently had a 12-week checkup but he's a long way from being cleared to play. "It's just a long process," said Thomas, who's also battled nagging back and knee injuries in the past. Before the season ended, Thomas stressed he wasn't in a rush to make a decision and didn't want to be a distraction as the Browns struggled on the field. That's still the case as he thinks about what's best for him and his family.

Despite being unable to play for the first time in his professional career, Thomas remained an active and integral part of the Browns' plans. He coached up teammates on both sides of the ball, traveled with the team on road trips and ventured into several off-field projects, including The First Podcast in NFL History.

The Browns, of course, have made clear how much they value Thomas, who had his contract modified this past season to make him one of the NFL's top-paid offensive linemen. "This football team needs him," head coach Hue Jackson said in December. "He's a leader of this whole group so we would love to have him back, but again, in his own time, he will make that choice and decision and we will be there awaiting that word."

Thomas said he plans to make a decision this spring. "I don't think there's any real rush, obviously (the Browns) want to know before the draft and free agency so that if they have to make different plans if I'm not going to be there, they want to know about it," he said.

"But I told them I'll make a decision when I'm ready and let them know and give them as much time as I possibly can."

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