“Part of being an offensive lineman is just toughing it out.” -Joe Thomas
This Sunday against the Bengals, Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas will start in his 100th consecutive game. It is a streak that began on September 9th, 2007 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which the Steelers beat the Browns 34-7.
Thomas started that first game as a rookie, and he has played not just every game since then, but every snap. All 6,054 of them.
It is an impressive streak, and 100 games is a very nice milestone in his career. He has a long way to go however, before the streak is record breaking.
The record for most consecutive games played by an offensive lineman is 240 by a Vikings center named Mick Tinglehoff. Bruce Mathews played in 232 straight regular season games, with some at left tackle. If you want to find the player with the longest such streak strictly at left tackle, you need only to look away from the field and up to the announcing booth.
Doug Dieken started 194 games at left tackle for the Browns from November of 1971 to December 16th, 1984.
Thomas told reporters on Wednesday that he is proud of the fact that he hasn’t missed a snap in his career. He feels fortunate that the few times there was any question about his status for a game he was able to tough it out.
“I think I always knew I was going to play, because that’s just the way my mind works.” Thomas said, “There’s been some times that it wasn’t fun to play, throwing up the day of the game and that sort of thing, having knee sprains and torn muscles and stuff like that. Thankfully they were never bad enough where it wasn’t possible that I could play.”
There was a quote in the Browns’ practice facility when Thomas was just a young player that said “Durability is more important than ability.” These are words that the Wisconsin native took to heart and has modeled for the young linemen on the team.
Thomas is not the only member of the Browns line that has played every snap since their rookie season. Center Alex mack has played every snap of his 67 game career. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has played every down of his 19 game career. Prior to his injury in the preseason, Shaun Lauvao has been very durable throughout his career, playing in 42 straight games.
Thomas hasn’t just played every game however. He has done it at a Pro-Bowl level. He has been elected to the season ending all-star game every season he has been in the league.
On Sunday morning the Browns will be inducting two more members into the ‘Cleveland Browns Legends’. Linebacker Galen Fiss and guard Abe Gibron. Both played their careers long before the majority of WFNY readers were born.
One thing is certain, sometime after Joe Thomas calls it a career he will get the call from the team telling him it is his year to be included in the ‘Browns Legends’. Since the team returned to action in 1999, Thomas has been their best draft pick and best player period. All due respect to Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs, but Joe Thomas is the best.