CLEVELAND — There is little doubt the loss of Joe Thomas, the Browns' left tackle and face-of-the franchise, is a crippling blow to a young team still searching for its first win.
Thomas, the 10-time Pro Bowler, suffered a triceps injury in Sunday's loss to the Titans and was placed on injured reserve the following day. Before that, Cleveland's "Ironman" had never missed a snap — 10,363 consecutive offensive plays was the final tally — since being drafted in 2007.
For the first time since Dec. 31, 2006, the Browns will count on someone other than Thomas to protect their quarterback's blindside. The sometimes-cliche mantra of "next man up" doesn't apply here.
"It's hard to replace someone like him. We know that," head coach Hue Jackson said Monday. "We'll have to adjust and do some things differently, and we will."
Jackson said the Browns plan to play second-year offensive lineman Spencer Drango at left tackle this weekend against the Vikings in London. They'll continue to evaluate their options during the bye week.
"We'll keep talking about it as a staff and see if we need to shuffle some guys around, but what I don't want to do is take one position and then all of a sudden have issues at other positions," Jackson said.
"We may stand pat with that and put Spencer over there and do some things offensively to help. Then when we get back from our game in London during our bye, we will discuss what we think is best moving forward for those last eight games. That's where we are right now."
Drango, who filled in for Thomas on Sunday, played all 16 games last season as a rookie, starting nine of them. Thomas, who spoke with news reporters on a conference call Monday, said he'll do whatever he can to help the former fifth-round pick from Baylor.
"I'm hoping to give him as much help as I possibly can," Thomas said. "I don't know exactly what things will look like during the rest of the year, obviously, I've never been through something like this before.
Neither have the Browns, who have come to lean on his steady presence over the years. Jackson said he expects opposing defenses to take advantage of the situation.
"You do have to make adjustments that way in order to try to help in a position that you've grown accustomed to not having to help so you go through it," he said.
Indeed, there's no replacing Thomas, on the field or off it. But Jackson said the Browns will have to do their best to move on. "We have to get over it quick because nobody else cares about that. I just think in our locker room, you're used to having him in there, seeing him in there and knowing he's going to play. He has been an ironman," he said.
"You walk out there, Joe Thomas is on the field ready to go. I think our players, we need to get past that as fast as we can. We don't have that safety net anymore. He's not going to be here playing this season, the rest of this season. As fast as we can, we have to turn that corner."