Joe Thomas is one of the best players on the Browns' roster, and one of the league's elite left tackles. He's a workhorse, never missing a snap in a six-year NFL career that includes six Pro Bowl appearances. For all the jokes made at the Browns' expense, the decision to take Thomas third overall back in 2007 was among the best in franchise history.
Thomas also doesn't seek out attention. But he comes across as honest; the type of person that will give you a straight answer and not regret doing so. It explains his recent remarks about the state of the team, although, honestly, they're hardly surprising.
Thomas arrived in Cleveland having won at every level. His rookie season, the Browns went 10-6 but missed the playoffs. In the five years since, the team has gone through four coaches and never won more than five games in a season.
And what if that dream never happens?
"It'd be hard," he said. "I grew up playing football since I was 12 years old. At every level, I've been on winning teams. I never experienced a losing season since my second year in the NFL. Obviously, that would be a huge disappointment, just because it's no fun playing in the NFL when you're going 4-12 every year. It's drudgery. It's like covering a team that's 4-12. It sucks."
Browns fans nod knowingly.
To his credit, Thomas remains upbeat. The Browns have a new owner, front office and coaching staff and the hope is that this is the year things get turned around.
"I'm excited about Chud (Rob Chudzinski) as a head coach and very hopeful this is the team with this group of guys and coaching staff that is going to get to the playoffs and I'm going to be able to enjoy that at least in the second half of my career here," he said.
"The individual stuff is nice, but it's not important to me, per se, because the fun in this game is winning and I want to go to the playoffs," Thomas continued. "I've never gone to the playoffs. Only one winning season so far. That's my motivating factor to show up every day."