When it comes to modern sports iron-men, you can keep Cal Ripken Jr. and Brett Favre. We’ll take Joe Thomas.
In today’s NFL, with increasingly massive players colliding on each down, Thomas entered Sunday having played every Cleveland Browns offensive snap since Week 1 of his rookie season in 2007.
Thomas’ truly unbelievable streak ended Sunday after 10,363 snaps, when the left tackle exited the Browns’ game against the Titans with a left triceps injury.
Wow. Browns LT Joe Thomas, who has never missed a snap in his career, is down on the field receiving medical attention…
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 22, 2017
Joe Thomas' consecutive snap streak ends at 10,363. Spanned 11 seasons, 167 games.
— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) October 22, 2017
A sight you thought you'd never see.
Joe Thomas who has NEVER missed a snap in his 11-year career went down and is out of the game. pic.twitter.com/V0FEAc6u3H
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 22, 2017
The Browns announced that Thomas would not return to the game.
Yes, there’s a certain danger is over-glorifying iron-man streaks and thereby encouraging athletes of all ages to play through injuries they should instead seek serious treatment for. In truth, a streak like Thomas’ requires a humongous amount of luck, especially in a league like the NFL where any single play can lead to a serious injury.
That said, there’s clearly something remarkably admirable about Thomas’ endurance at a highly physical position, for a team that consistently fails to live up to his excellent play. Such endurance surely requires top-rate conditioning, and it also means a fair amount of playing through all kinds of nagging pain. Thomas could have taken a play, a series or even a game off at any point in the past 11 years, but he kept suiting up for the lowly Browns, down after down.
Thomas will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and when he is, we won’t be able to talk about all the team success he enjoyed (in his prime, at least), but we will be able to remark at a streak that defied all probability. Hopefully Thomas gets back from his triceps injury quickly and begins his streak anew.