Joe Thomas' playing days are over, but he'll be a Cleveland Brown for life.
Thomas, who announced his retirement last week and was honored in an emotional news conference Monday afternoon, said he wants to remain involved with the team in some capacity after 11 seasons as its left tackle.
"I want to be, even though I won't be on the field, somebody who can be a positive representation for the Cleveland Browns and help them in any way I can without being on the field," Thomas said. "I don't know what that position is going to look like yet but hopefully, we can do something and then I can still be a part of the game and be a part of this team."
Thomas, who was voted to a team-record 10 Pro Bowls and played 10,363 consecutive snaps before a season-ending triceps injury in October, said his current plan is to "help out a lot this spring" as he continues rehabilitating his arm and as Cleveland explores options at left tackle going forward.
"I'm excited to still be around, helping some of the guys transitioning playing tackle for us," Thomas said Tuesday on Cleveland Browns Daily. "After that, it just kind of depends on what we agree on, what we talk about. I'm going to meet with (Browns owner Jimmy Haslam) this offseason to see what I can do for the team."
Thomas, of course, leaves behind an unmatched legacy both on and off the field. As a player, Thomas was a constant amid constant change in Cleveland and his durability, professionalism and consistent excellence made him a fan favorite. Off the field, Thomas was among the Browns' most active players in the community and was something of a media darling in recent years.
Because of that, Thomas said there will be an adjustment period when it comes to not playing football for the first time in more than a decade. When he talked to former players while mulling retirement, Thomas said "they said it always feels like you're waking up and missing something … I think that feeling is especially strong once it gets to August. You don't have that, and it's kind of a void. I think it definitely takes a minute to figure out what your life is going to look like when you settle into retirement."
Last week, Browns coach Hue Jackson heaped praise on Thomas and offered a standing invitation to come around as much as possible. "I'm going to miss Joe, but as I told him again today, I'm going to always reiterate to him, this is still his football team," Jackson said. "He still has a [key] that gets in the door. His locker will stay the same. It will be in the same place. His place on the plane will be the same if he wants to go. That's how much I think of Joe Thomas. He will be missed."
Thomas, who ventured into podcasting (among other media ventures) late last fall, said he's entertained careers in both coaching and broadcasting, though he isn't ready to dive into anything quite yet. "I definitely want to stay around the game. I think the longer you play football, the more it becomes part of who you are. The passion somehow gets greater," he said.
"If you would have told me as a rookie that I would love football and the game and playing and everything about it now even more than when I was in high school or even in middle school, I probably would have said you were lying. It really becomes who you are. It becomes so much a part of your life. I think that is why so many guys struggle with the transition from player to post-career."
First things first, Thomas made clear he'll take some time to relax and decompress before deciding what's next.
"There are a few opportunities that I'm exploring right now. I'm keeping all of my doors open," he said. "Going to look for what is the right fit for me and my family. Part of the things that I'm excited about with this retirement – obviously, I'm really sad that I'm done playing football – I'm really excited about spending more time with my family. Whatever happens in the next phase of my life, I'm really looking forward to finding something that will fit with what I hope to expect with my family life."