It’s hard to be hopeful of a turnaround when you don’t even win a game. That is the position that veteran left tackle Joe Thomas finds himself in as he weighs his future, recovering from the first meaningful injury of his career. The long-time Cleveland Browns player is weighing whether or not he wants to continue playing, and not winning games doesn’t make it easier to stick around.
Thomas played every single snap of his career to the first snap of the home opener for the team in 2007 until he was injured in the middle of the 2017 season, logging over 10,000 consecutive snaps, believed to be the only player in NFL history to achieve that. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons and is almost assuredly headed for the Hall of Fame.
But now he has to decide whether or not he wants to continue to play for a franchise that seems incapable of winning, having only won a single contest over the past two seasons—the worst that any team has ever done over a two-year span in NFL history.
Since his injury in late October, Thomas recently said that he is “making progress”, the rehabilitation process being an unfamiliar project for him, since he has never had a serious injury on the playing field prior to this.
He added that he has “had a lot of time to think and spend some time with the family, but not ready definitively to make a decision one way or the other just yet [about continuing to play]. Really for me, my decision is just going to come down to do I feel like I’m healthy enough to survive another season?”.
That really is not an insignificant consideration. While he was healthy for 10 straight seasons, the type of injury that Thomas suffered, especially when you get late into your career, has a tendency to recur or lead to similar injuries. We saw Aaron Smith for the Pittsburgh Steelers suffer a couple of these injuries at the end of his career.
He admitted that he has gone back and forth about the decision, some days leaning more toward returning, others leaning more toward calling it a career and finding a field of work in another venue. During his injury, he has even worked a bit in the media, which is a potential option for the next phase of his professional life.
But it is only January, and he said, “I don’t think there’s any real rush at this point,” While he acknowledged that the Browns would like to know about his plans prior to free agency, there is still time for that decision to be made. “I told them I’ll make a decision when I’m ready and let them know and give them as much time as I possibly can”.