Thomas believes Browns will win

Dripping with sweat, Browns tackle Joe Thomas stood in the end

zone after practice and discussed his contract extension, a deal

that will keep him in Cleveland the rest of his pro career.

Most players would make such a milestone announcement at a

splashy news conference with all the bells and whistles.

Thomas isn’t most.

“Typical Joe,” tight end Evan Moore said. “Joe’s the ultimate

professional.”

A Pro Bowl-selection in each of his four NFL seasons, Thomas

will be Cleveland’s left tackle for a long time. On Monday night,

Thomas signed a seven-year, $84 million extension to stay with the

Browns, who during an inglorious return to the league as an

expansion team have not made any smarter move than drafting the

former Wisconsin All-American with the third overall pick in

2007.

Thomas wanted to keep negotiations and the contract private, so

as not to upstage any of his teammates as they get ready for their

first season under new coach Pat Shurmur.

The Browns have not yet formally announced Thomas’ signing,

which includes nearly $44 million in guaranteed money.

After practice, the 6-foot-6, 312-pound Thomas explained his

decision to remain with the Browns, who have had just two winning

seasons since 1999. Thomas was entering the final year of his

rookie contract, and could have tested free agency following the

season. However, he’s excited about the future in Cleveland, a team

and city he believes are on the cusp of greatness.

“The things that I’ve seen here in the last couple years, the

type of coaches that we’re bringing in here, the type of players

we’re bringing in, the staff that we put together, it’s really

exciting for me to see the direction this franchise is headed,” he

said. “That was the main reason that I wanted to stay here and

continue to work on this journey.”

Thomas had his doubts. Shurmur is the third coach he has played

for, following Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini, neither of whom had

any sustained success with the Browns. Thomas said he became

convinced there was a bright future in Cleveland not long after

owner Randy Lerner hired former Green Bay and Seattle coach Mike

Holmgren as his president to oversee the Browns.

“A couple years ago there were a lot of questions about the

future of this franchise, a lot of instability not only in the

front office, but the coaching staff and players,” Thomas said. “I

think right now, the vision that everybody has, the way everyone is

on the same page, there is nothing but success in the future here.

I wouldn’t have stayed if I didn’t see those things. To me, it’s

all about winning and that’s why I wanted to stay here.

“I could have tried to go to free agency, but I really wanted to

be here. I love Cleveland and have loved this organization since

the day I walked out here. More importantly, this is going to be a

heck of a franchise.”

Thomas has played in all 64 games since joining the Browns. His

work ethic and commitment to get better are unmatched and Moore

said he and his teammates share a deep respect for Thomas.

“Joe is just consistent,” Moore said. “I don’t think he’s ever

missed a practice, let alone a game. He’s always out here. He’s

always working on his body in the weight room and working on

staying healthy. Now you see him get rewarded like that and to me,

he just really sets the example as ‘this is how you do it.’ He’s

just a steady presence and I’m not surprised in the least bit that

they wanted him for another seven years.”

Shurmur, a former college center at Michigan State, has a great

appreciation for Thomas as a technician on the line. He also

admires the way Thomas goes about his business in practice He makes

it easier for the coaches.

“He’s a good run blocker, pass blocker and a terrific leader,”

Shurmur said. “When rookies come into the league as coaches we tell

them what we expect, we set standards. But when you can say, ‘Watch

how he does it.,’ that’s when you got something. When you have guys

on your team like that, it helps the younger guys along

quicker.”

Notes: Browns RB Peyton Hillis sat out practice with a sore

lower back. Shurmur doesn’t think “it’s a big deal” and assumes

Hillis will play on Thursday in Philadelphia. … Moore was back at

practice after sustaining a mild concussion against Detroit on

Friday. Moore had an impressive day in red-zone drills. … RB

Montario Hardesty is excited about getting his first action since

undergoing knee surgery against the Eagles. “It’s time to go,”

Hardesty said. … Among the other notables not practicing: WR Josh

Cribbs, OG Eric Steinbach, S T.J. Ward, LB Chris Gocong and RB

Brandon Jackson.