By Nick Shook
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Joe Thomas still isn’t ready to decide on his future.
The perennial All-Pro and future Hall of Fame left tackle said Wednesday he remains on the fence about whether he’ll return to the Cleveland Browns in 2018.
Thomas suffered a torn triceps in Cleveland’s loss to Tennessee in late October, ending his unofficial consecutive snaps streak at 10,363. He’s since become the team’s de facto veteran assistant coach, sideline weatherman and multi-podcast star.
Simply, he has other options than returning to play for the league’s newest member of the 0-16 club.
“Making progress,” Thomas said, via The Associated Press. “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. Really for me, my decision is just going to come down to do I feel like I’m healthy enough to survive another season?”
It’s a valid concern for a 32-year-old who played every down possible until the middle of his 11th season. It’s also fair for an all-time great lineman who’s been trapped on an island of ineptitude — save for his rookie season in which the Browns won 10 games but missed the playoffs — since 2007. He’s more than earned the right to move into the next phase of his life if he so desires.
“I don’t think there’s any real rush at this point,” he said. “Obviously, they want to know before the draft and free agency, so that if they have to make different plans if I’m not going to be there, they want to know about it. 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.”
Cleveland has already attempted to lure him back with a pay raise, but Thomas’ tone suggests he might be leaning toward walking away.
The tackle recently launched a podcast with former teammate Andrew Hawkins, who retired in 2017, titled the Thomahawk Show, via Uninterrupted. During one of its earliest episodes, the two discussed Cleveland’s release of cornerback Joe Haden.
“This year, the Browns made a lot of moves, trading guys, releasing guys,” Thomas said on the podcast, “but in the 2017 season, I think that move, when they cut Joe Haden, was probably the most deflating move for the coaching staff and for the players in that locker room, especially all those young guys that we had, they all looked up to Joe, they loved Joe, everyone loved him. And we’re thinking ‘we cut this guy and we had $70 million in cap space? What is that trying to say about the season?'”
The season ended without a win and without Thomas. Cleveland very well could begin 2018 in the same fashion.