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Joe Thomas - Hall of Fame 2023

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Joel Bitonio eager to celebrate Joe Thomas, 'one of the best,' in Canton

Bitonio plans to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony for his close friend and former teammate


The big day for legendary Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas in happening next week — on Aug. 5 in Canton, Thomas will officially be enshrined for eternity at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Joel Bitonio, whose been a close friend of Thomas since they became teammates in 2014, can't wait to witness it.

"He's a guy that's one of the best," Bitonio said. "One of the best to ever play the game and to play next to him as a young player in this league. To see him, I think he only had one kid when I got in the league, and now he has four, and now he's going to the Hall of Fame and all those things, it's just pretty surreal."

Bitonio knows how important Thomas' family has meant to his career, which is why he wasn't surprised to see Thomas select his wife, Annie, and his four kids to serve as his speakers in the Hall of Fame ceremony. 

"They go through it with you, like the training camps, the practices, the seasons, the good games, the bad games," Bitonio said. "They're the people that you talk to and go through it. They make sacrifices, obviously, in the offseason; it's worth it for us, but there's a lot of sacrifices they make, so it's a team effort.

"I try and tell my wife all the time how much I appreciate her work, especially this week (at The Greenbrier). She's at home with the kids and doing that thing, so it's always a family affair, and his family is one of the best. So I think it's very cool that they're honoring him that way."

Bitonio aspires to see more than just the ceremony, if time allows. With training camp ongoing, Bitonio will have a busy schedule ahead, but the Browns will have a quick breather for a day or two after they play in the Hall of Fame Game against the Jets on Aug. 3, and Bitonio is hoping to spend more time in Canton to honor a player he'll always remember as a mentor and best friend.

"We'll see how practice goes from there and stuff like that, but I'm going to go see his ceremony, me and my wife," he said. "There are so many great people that we're going to be able to see along with Joe and Annie and their family. I'll definitely make an appearance at the after party and say congrats."

The whole experience could feel just as surreal to Bitonio as it will for Thomas — their careers will forever be intertwined, but it's a moment Bitonio long knew was coming for a player who will always embody the franchise.

"You don't have the opportunity to play with that many Hall of Fame guys," Bitonio said. "So to have that ability is pretty special for him, and I'm very happy for him and his family."

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