BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Numb from losing, the Cleveland Browns suffered perhaps their biggest loss yet — Joe Thomas won’t play again this season.
The perennial Pro Bowl left tackle — and iron man — tore his left triceps Sunday against Tennessee, and an MRI taken on Monday confirmed the severity of an injury that has dealt another devastating blow to an already floundering franchise.
Thomas said he’ll probably have surgery Tuesday and he’s been told that he’ll need 6 to 9 months to make a full recovery. The 32-year-old, who is under contract for one more year, said he’s been too focused on surgery to consider whether he’ll continue his career.
“I haven’t really thought about coming back yet,” he said on a conference call. “I was playing at the top of my game.”
The face of the Browns for a decade, Thomas played 10,363 consecutive snaps before he was forced to leave the field on Sunday, ending what is believed to be the longest consecutive plays streak in NFL history.
The sight of the seemingly indestructible Thomas curled up in a ball on the field of FirstEnergy Stadium and screaming in pain left his teammates, coaches, Cleveland fans and Titans players shaken.
“Heartbreaking,” rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer said after the Browns lost 12-9 in overtime. “A guy who has done everything right, consistently for years and years and years, and to see him go down, it hurts. He is the cornerstone of this organization and of this team. We are going to continue to rely on him to be a leader for us.”
The 10-time Pro Bowler has been one of the few bright spots for the miserable Browns since 2007, when the club selected the former Wisconsin All-American with the No. 3 overall pick.
Despite numerous front-office and coaching changes, Thomas has always been there for the Browns, performing at an elite level while embodying the working-class ethic for an entire region.
Thomas continued to play week after week while battling injuries that would sideline most players. In the past few years, Thomas only practiced once or twice a week so he would be ready on Sunday. He was always there.
His injury is just one of many current issues for the winless Browns, who are 0-7 this season and 1-22 in two seasons under embattled coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson has become close with Thomas and will now have to move forward without the reliable No. 73 anchoring his line. On Sunday, Jackson expressed his gratitude to Thomas before he went to the locker room.
“I appreciate everything that he is,” Jackson said. “I promised him that when he is back, if he is back, that we are going to get this thing figured out because he is Cleveland Browns football. He is a guy that keeps us all going and moving forward. We owe him more than what we have given him thus far. That is for sure.”
Thomas got hurt on a routine running play while blocking for Duke Johnson. Thomas immediately dropped to the field and as he was being attended to by medical personnel, several of his teammates dropped to a knee.
After Thomas got up and was jogging off the field, Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan came off the sideline and ran after him to offer support.
Lewan got to know Thomas at last year’s Pro Bowl and has long admired his durability.
“There’s one thing Joe does that’s so unbelievable — consistency,” Lewan said. “He does it over and over and over again. That’s one thing you ask for in an offensive lineman. If you have a consistent guy, you’ve got a lot of problems figured out. My shoe’s falling off, we’ve called where I’m a tight end on a play and I’m eligible and I had to go off the next one. It’s incredible.
“We’re talking like he’s done. As far as I’m concerned. Joe could be back next game and start another streak.”