Joe Thomas still isn’t sure if he’ll retire after this season or continue playing football. The question is one many have wondered ever since the stalwart offensive lineman missed his first NFL snap when triceps surgery landed him on injured reserve after the Cleveland Browns’ Week 7 overtime loss to Tennessee.
At the time, Thomas said he would weigh his options and assess at a later date, which he said would be after the season ended. With the Browns set to finish their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17, we’re closer to finding out whether the 32-year-old future hall of famer has the drive to complete his comeback and finish his contract with the Browns.
But closer doesn’t mean Thomas is ready to spill the beans, or even that he has made his decision.
“I think it will come down to really, first and foremost, my health,” Thomas said during a media availability on Thursday. “Do I feel like I’m still playing at an elite level and do I still love it?
“For me, I feel like when I make that decision, which will be after the season, that is really what it is going to come down to.”
Thomas talked mainly about fairness to his decision-making progress, and also to his teammates as to avoid being a distraction from the team’s progress and the players who are actively playing in games.
I don’t think it is fair to myself because in the middle of the season you go through a range of emotions, especially when you are on IR, you are injured and then you are watching games. Sometimes you are really happy. Sometimes you are really sad. It is a roller coaster of emotions to be in season on IR watching guys play. I think a decision to continuing to play or not is best left in the offseason when you have time to sit down and get away from it a little bit and meet with your family and come up with the best decision for yourself.
Thomas probably had the best intentions, but those following the team, and probably those inside the locker room, could have done well to have had some kind of a distraction as the Browns putzed their way through the 2017 campaign in his absence.
Will Thomas retire? It wouldn’t be unexpected considering he has accomplished everything he likely set out to do as far as individual achievements are concerned. But he has never been part of a Super Bowl winning team, or even graced the postseason in his illustrious 11-year NFL career. That’s something he could decide is worth playing for in 2018.
The problem is that possibility is unlikely for Cleveland anytime soon.
And with Thomas set to be paid the most of any linemen in 2018, it may be hard for the Browns to trade him to a contender. While he could choose to continue playing for the Browns by not retiring or asking to be traded, it’s pretty unlikely that happens because the chances the Browns will turn from a one- or two- win team in two seasons into a Super Bowl contender are close to zero.
By the merit of the amount of elite-level play Thomas has left in him, combined with the odds the Browns have at utilizing his best remaining snaps in meaningful football games, the best thing for Thomas’ decision process is for him to be traded, or at least informed he will be quickly following the end of the season, or he could be released outright. That would help him because he could focus on potential destinations rather than staring down another all-too-familiar dismal season of preparation for a Browns team that won’t be playing meaningful games in January, and even more unlikely in February.
So, Thomas still has a road to recovery ahead, important conversations to have with his family and the Browns organization, and he seems content with taking his time to make the best decision for himself and his family. And things could change depending on new Browns general manager John Dorsey’s approach to Thomas’ future with the team.
Maybe Thomas is waiting it out to see what the Browns will do with him before making the important decision?