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Former Browns forward Joe Thomas named one of 15 modern-era finalists for Pro Football Hall of Fame

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BEREA, Ohio — Joe Thomas, announced Wednesday night as one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a first-ballot candidate, called his shot at the Hall as a rookie in 2007.

“I had high expectations for myself and I remember after one of our rookie minicamp practices, the Cleveland media was there to interview me and I said, well, my first goal is to start,” Thomas recalled during a game. from the NFL. Network interview on Wednesday night after he was announced. “Which is reasonable. You’re the third pick in the draft. You’ll probably start soon, maybe tomorrow.

“And then I said, I want to make the Pro Bowl and then I want to be a Hall of Famer. And those are my individual goals for myself. Obviously, the success of the team is very important. I would love to win a Super Bowl. I would love to make the playoffs every season, blah, blah, blah. But personally, individually, these are my goals and these are the steps.”

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The 2007 third overall pick from Wisconsin, Thomas, now an NFL Network analyst, quickly realized that few rookies have been targeting Hall since the jump, during his first minicamp workout.

“I think at that time there were probably some members of the Cleveland media who were like, ‘Huh, okay, yeah, we’ll be happy if you make a Pro Bowl or two,’” he said with a laugh. “But I was serious when I said that. For me, I always expected perfection from myself. And I knew that if I had an opportunity, God willing, to play enough, I was going to try to make the Pro Bowl every season, and I knew that if I could continue to maintain a level of excellence and continue to strive for perfection, that I wanted to be a member. of the Hall of Fame.

“And so it’s a little surreal now to think that we’re very close to the opportunity to get voted into something that I said I wanted to do over 15 years ago.”

The only hurdle left for Thomas to cross in the process this year is becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and with his illustrious career, he looks to be a blockage. Tomás:

  • Started all 167 career games. He didn’t miss an offensive snap after being third overall in 2007 until the triceps injury against Tennessee on October 22, 2017.
  • Had a streak of 10,363 consecutive offensive plays, considered the longest consecutive streak in NFL history.
  • Joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen (14), Mel Renfro (10), Barry Sanders (10) and Lawrence Taylor (10) as the only players in NFL history to reach the Pro Bowl in each of their first 10 seasons.
  • He is the only offensive lineman in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons, and was a six-time first-team All-Pro.
  • Had 10 Pro Bowl selections that are the best by a Browns player, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown (9) and Lou Groza (9).
  • He was the only offensive lineman unanimously selected to the 2010 NFL Team of the Decade.

Thomas, 38, was so good, so technically sound, that it didn’t matter that he’d never made the playoffs in his 11 seasons. In fact, the Browns went 48-128 during his tenure.

“I don’t really think about it too much because as a striker all I can do is try to put my teammates in a great position for success,” he said. “If we have a great running back or a great quarterback, I can give them the platform and ability to make the plays.

“I’m sure some people are saying, ‘Well, he never made the playoffs. How could he have been a great offensive lineman? And for those people, I don’t think I really have much feedback other than ‘Hey, look at the list of quarterbacks I played for.’ I’m not seeing any Hall of Famers on that list right now. Lots of great guys, but I’m not sure any quarterbacks really had the opportunity to elevate the team to be one of those guys that wins the Super Bowl and can put that on their resume for the Hall of Fame.

Along the way, Thomas blocked 22 quarterbacks – an average of two a season. He retained most of the names on the infamous Browns QB jersey.

“I feel like, for me, maybe it’s part of my resume to try to get into the Hall of Fame, since I’ve played with so many quarterbacks and still managed to have All-Pros and Pro Bowls under my belt because it’s so much easier when Tom Brady is behind you every day and he’s throwing the ball in a second and a half and two and you’re hearing the same voice in the crowd, you’re running into the same offenses.

“But for me, I had a lot of different voices, three or four, it felt like almost every season, we were running different attacks. I think I had nine offensive coordinators during my career, six head coaches, a few owners.

It was Thomas’ voice of reason and steadfast leadership that guided the Browns through those difficult and stressful seasons. In addition to all his on-field accolades, he was the Browns’ Walter Payton Candidate of the Year three times.

“There was a lot of turmoil, but I also took pride in that no matter what was going on around me, I was going to be the stability on that offensive line, the stability on that offense, and that team and that consistency was something that I’m proud of,” he said. him. “So I think having all these different voices made it a challenge. But I hope I was able to accept that challenge and almost improve my resume because there were many times there were quarterbacks that came into the huddle that I didn’t really recognize.

He wasn’t kidding.

“There was even one time I had to ask the guy what his name was,” he said. “I wasn’t sure who he was because he got there a few days before that.”

When news broke on Wednesday that he was among the final 15, he was blown away.

“It’s a lot of emotion, right?” he said. “You kind of get excited when you hear your name as one of the finalists and you have the opportunity to walk down memory lane and think about all the people who helped get us here and all the great teammates. that you got the chance to play was a big part of being able to become a Hall of Fame finalist.

Thomas cited Dwight Freeney and DeMarcus Ware as the “two guys I always lost a lot of sleep over the night before a game because they had a great combination of speed, power and quick passing moves, and they were relentless in getting past quarterback. And those were guys I played with a lot of times early on in my career and they gave me great challenges but I think they also made me a better player because when you play against the best and expect the best and put a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect in these games.

Freeney and Ware could join Thomas in Canton this year.

Here is the full list of 15:

  • Jared AllenDefensive End – 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers
  • Willie AndersonOffensive offense – 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens
  • round barberCornerback/Safety – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Dwight FreeneyDefensive End/Outside Linebacker – 2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14 San Diego Chargers, 2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017 Detroit Lions
  • Devin Hester, Punt Returner/Kick Returner/Wide Receiver – 2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens
  • Torry HoltWide Receiver – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Andre JohnsonWide Receiver – 2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans
  • Albert LewisCornerback – 1983-1993 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-98 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
  • Darrelle RevisCornerback – 2007-2012 New York Jets, 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2014 New England Patriots, 2015-16 New York Jets, 2017 Kansas City Chiefs
  • joe thomasoffensive offense – 2007-2017 Cleveland Browns
  • Zach ThomasLinebacker – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys
  • DeMarcus Ware, Linebacker/Defensive End – 2005-2013 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-16 Denver Broncos
  • Reggie WayneWide Receiver – Indianapolis Colts 2001-2014
  • Patrick WillisDefender – San Francisco 49ers 2007-2014
  • Darren WoodsonSafety – 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys

The selection committee will meet later this month to vote on candidates and may elect up to five modern-era players to the Class of 2023; each must receive a minimum 80% positive vote for election. Four others – senior category finalists Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley, along with technical finalist/contributor Don Coryell – are also candidates for the Class of 2023. Voting on each of these four will be conducted individually, in conjunction with the meeting to decide which modern-era players are elected.

The finalists in the modern era player category were determined by voting by the Hall selection committee from the list of 129 nominees named in September, which was narrowed down to 28 semi-finalists on 22 November.

The Class of 2023 will be publicly revealed on February 9 during Phoenix’s “NFL Honors Presented by Invisalign” broadcast on NFL Network, NBC and Peacock.

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