“This was an extremely difficult decision, but the right one for me and my family,” Thomas said. “Playing in the NFL has taken a toll on my body and I can no longer physically compete at the level I need to.”
The 33-year-old played in seven games last season before he tore his left triceps on Oct. 22. Until then, he never missed a snap in his NFL career, playing 10,363 consecutive snaps, which is believed to be the longest in league history.
“From the moment I was drafted, the city embraced me in a way that I could never fully describe. I am proud to call Cleveland home. The loyalty and passion of the fans is unmatched and it was an honor to play in front of them from the past 11 years. I would like to thank all of the coaches, teammates, staff, fans and everyone who has shown me support throughout my career. Even though I will be hanging up my cleats, I will always be a Cleveland Brown,” Thomas said.
He will be enshrined into the Browns Ring of Honor this year and will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton in five years.
“Joe has been a pillar of our organization and one of the greatest to put on a Cleveland Browns uniform,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said.
“We want to thank him for everything he has done for the Browns and the Northeast Ohio community. We should all strive for the standard Joe has set to always be available, put the team above yourself and always give maximum effort. One of the first ways we will acknowledge and honor his accomplishments is to enshrine the number 10,363 to recognize his consecutive snaps streak in the team’s Ring of Honor at a home game this season. It also won’t be long before he takes his rightful place down the road in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” the Haslams said.
The Browns selected Thomas with the third overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Wisconsin. In college, he started in 38 games at left offensive tackle, and received Associated Press All-American honors and Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors.
His impact on the Browns was immediate. He started all 16 games and became the fourth rookie offensive lineman to reach the Pro Bowl in NFL history. He continued to earn more Pro-Bowl and All-Pro honors, as he gained the respect of teammates, who voted him a co-captain on offense in 2009.
With his 10th Pro Bowl selection in 2016, Thomas became the fifth player in league history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons. It’s a feat accomplished by Pro Football Hall of Famers Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Mel Renfro and Merlin Olsen. Thomas also surpassed legends Jim Brown and Lou Groza to become the Browns all-time Pro Bowl leader.
Thomas played under six general managers and six head coaches during his career as a Brown. He’s also seen 20 different starting quarterbacks. With all that inconsistency, Cleveland fans have counted on Joe Thomas. Walking into FirstEnergy Stadium on Sundays, among the jerseys dedicated to failed first-round draft picks, a clear favorite emerges: No. 73.
Browns fan appreciate not only the way Thomas plays and his commitment to Cleveland, but his sense of humor. It shows on his Twitter account and his web series, “The Joe Thomas Hour, the Best Two Minutes of Your Life.”
Following his injury and season-ending surgery, Thomas launched a podcast with former teammate, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. “The ThomaHawk Show” quickly became one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.
Thomas has been a staple at charity events in Northeast Ohio over the years. He’s a three-time recipient of the Browns Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. He provides tickets and Browns apparel to the USO of Northern Ohio. At the holidays, he hosts 30 kids for a shopping spree at Dick’s Sporting Goods called “Shop Like a Pro.” He’s also involved with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Cleveland Animal Protective League.