CLEVELAND (AP) — Joe Thomas has finally given the Cleveland Browns something to celebrate during a ghastly season.
One of the game's elite left offensive tackles, Thomas was selected to his 10th consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday night, becoming just the fifth player in NFL history to be selected 10 straight times to open a career.
Thomas, who has not missed a single snap since he was drafted in 2007, also holds the team record for most Pro Bowls, a mark he previously shared with Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Lou Groza.
"It's always an honor to be recognized by the fans, coaches and your peers," Thomas said. "It is a feeling that never gets old. When I think about Jim Brown and Lou Groza, I think about not just two of the greatest Browns, but two of the greatest players to ever suit up in the NFL. It's humbling to be mentioned in the same sentence as them. Those guys helped the Browns capture championships and that is one of my goals.
"Individual recognition is always nice, but I would trade it all for team success and that is what we work toward every day."
At 0-14, the Browns and their fans have had little to cheer about this season. Thomas, though, is a light in the darkness.
"All right!" coach Hue Jackson said on the prospect of Thomas being honored. "Something to get excited about."
Thomas joined Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen (14), Mel Renfro (10), Barry Sanders (10) and Lawrence Taylor (10) as the only players to make the Pro Bowl in each of their first 10 seasons.
A three-time Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree, Thomas has been on the field for all 9,791 offensive snaps since the Browns made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2007. He's started 158 games, doing so despite injuries that may have sidelined other players.
Beyond his success on the field, Jackson credits Thomas as one of the players who have kept the Browns together during the worst season in the team's 66-year history.
"There's situations where you'd have a guy maybe that could be going to his 10th Pro Bowl that says, 'I'm doing my part. You guys figure it out,'" quarterback Josh McCown said.
"And Joe is not that way. He leads the groups. He's involved in every meeting. He's engaged, steps up and speaks and shares what's on his heart if he needs to.
"That's what makes him special and I certainly believe it's why we're all still locked in, because you look no further than Joe to know if that guy's going to his 10th straight Pro Bowl and regardless of the record, he's still putting it on the line and preparing, then I ought to do that.
"He's a heckuva inspiration to a lot of guys."