Dependable Thomas looks to grab leadership role

Joe Thomas is one of the few people the Cleveland Browns have

been able to depend on.

Entering his fourth NFL season, Thomas has started all 48 games

the team has played since Cleveland selected the offensive left

tackle with the third pick in the 2007 draft.

Thomas, who has yet to miss an offensive snap, has been a rock

of consistency for a team that has been plagued by losing and

turmoil. Thomas was one of the Browns captains in 2009 and looks to

assume even more of a leadership role this season.

”I feel like that’s happening,” said Thomas, who has made the

Pro Bowl in all three seasons. ”Last year, was my first year as a

captain. I feel like I’m starting to step up in the locker room and

meeting rooms and, hopefully, trying to carry that over for another

year and improve on that.”

Thomas and his offensive teammates find themselves working with

yet another new quarterback. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn shared

the duties the last three seasons. Both are gone. Jake Delhomme

will be this season’s starter, with Seneca Wallace and rookie Colt

McCoy in reserve.

Getting accustomed to working with Delhomme is one of Thomas’

top priorities in training camp.

”Getting with Jake and trying to kind of get this offense

moving in the direction that we want (is important),” Thomas

said.

The Browns have completed one week of camp and Thomas likes the

routine that has developed.

”It’s a good feel,” he said. ”It seems like every camp I’m in

there’s always a good, positive buzz going around and everybody’s

very optimistic. I see that this year, the same way.”

While hardly a grizzled veteran, Thomas has a definite opinion

on the rigors of camp.

”I don’t know if it ever gets easier,” he said. ”I think it

just is what it is. You know what to expect, so maybe things are a

little bit easier because you’re maybe not as nervous. You’ve got

more expectations about how things are going to run, but it never

is easy.”

Left guard Eric Steinbach signed with the Browns in 2007 and has

played alongside Thomas for three years.

”I’ve been in the league seven years and obviously he’s one of

the better, if not the best, tackle in the game right now,”

Steinbach said. ”He’s only been in the league three years. My

first here year he was a rookie and he came in and played right

away. He did a tremendous job. Each year he’s a consistent, solid

player.”

Thomas became an instant hit with Cleveland fans. He bypassed

the pomp and circumstance of draft day three years ago to go

fishing. The 6-foot-6, 312-pounder co-hosts his own fishing show on

a local television station. Thomas is signed through the 2011

season so it’s unclear whether he will be in Cleveland beyond

that.

”I’m just taking it one year at a time and when the time comes

to talk about long-term, I’m sure the Browns will come to me,”

Thomas said. ”But we’re just trying to win games and turn this

team into a winner. The contract things always take care of

themselves.”

Thomas and the other players get a break in the routine Saturday

when the team holds its annual scrimmage at Cleveland Browns

Stadium. The players will break into Brown and White Squads and

play four 10-minute quarters. Coach Eric Mangini wants to simulate

game conditions as much as possible.

”It should be fun,” Mangini said. ”I look forward to a big

crowd turnout. Rookies don’t understand how noisy it gets at our

place, but they will soon enough.”

The coaching staff has divided up the teams as fairly as

possible for the scrimmage. Delhomme and Brett Ratliff, last

season’s third-string quarterback, will work with one team while

Wallace and McCoy will play for the other.

Delhomme threw three interceptions in Thursday’s practice.

”I don’t want any three interception games,” Mangini said.

”The encouraging thing is the defense is creating more

turnovers.”

The Browns won’t be at full strength. Nose tackle Shaun Rogers,

defensive lineman C.J. Moseley and defensive back Coye Francis are

on the physically unable to perform list. Several other players

could miss the scrimmage with injuries.

Punter Dave Zastudill, who missed the final eight games last

season because of surgery on his right knee (non-kicking leg), left

camp earlier in the week to have the knee examined. He returned

Friday, but did not practice. Mangini didn’t rule out that

Zastudill, who averaged 44.7 yards a kick last season, would have

further surgery.

”I don’t think we’ve drawn any conclusion right now,” Mangini

said. ”I don’t think there’s anything new as of yet. We’ll talk

about it and see where it goes.”