CLEVELAND -- For 167 games over ten-and-a-half years, the Cleveland Browns were able to plug Joe Thomas into the lineup at left tackle and know that position was taken care of at a Pro Bowl level on every play.
However, for the first time since the last week of the 2006 season, the Browns will play a game without their stalwart left tackle, as Thomas is beginning the recovery process after season-ending surgery to repair a torn triceps tendon in his left arm during Sunday’s 12-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“It does because you have to put the next guy in there,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said of the ‘Next Man Up’ mantra applying to Thomas’ absence. “It is hard to replace someone like him. We know that. We will have to adjust and do some things differently, and we will.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas' snap streak comes to an end
Last December, Thomas was selected to his 10th Pro Bowl, and went 10 for 10 in all-star game nods since entering the league via the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Wisconsin. Thomas was the first Browns player ever selected to participate in 10 Pro Bowls.
Prior to the injury, Thomas had played 10,363 consecutive snaps, which is believed to be the longest such streak in the history of the National Football League.
“We have to get over it quick because nobody else cares about that,” Jackson said. “I just think in our locker room, you are used to having him in there, seeing him in there and knowing he is going to play.
“He has been Iron Man. You walk out there, Joe Thomas is on the field ready to go. I think our players, we need to get past that as fast as we can. We don’t have that safety net anymore. He is not going to be here playing this season, the rest of this season. As fast as we can, we have to turn that corner.”
On first-and-10 from Tennessee’s 27-yard line, Browns running back Duke Johnson ran behind the left side of the offensive line for a three-yard gain. Thomas emerged from the pile clutching his left arm and writhing in pain as he fell to the turf.
Tended to for several moments on the field, Thomas was helped to his feet and walked to the sidelines while talking with Browns medical personal. When Thomas went down with the injury, the Browns turned to Spencer Drango to take the snaps at left tackle.
During this week’s game in London against the Minnesota Vikings, the Browns will once again turn to Drango.
“It is hard,” Jackson said. “It is hard because teams know that. Teams play different defensive schemes. They line up different defensively, so the running back can’t help and you can’t chip. They put the tight end in different situations, so he can’t sit over there and just help.
“It is no secret what we are trying to do, and it is no secret what they are going to try to do. You do have to make adjustments that way in order to try to help in a position that you have grown accustomed to not having to help, so you go through it.”