Tag:Joe Thomas
Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:15 pm

Hillis: 'No excuse' for missing charity event

Posted by Will Brinson

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote in his 10-Point Stance Wednesday that Browns running Peyton Hillis missed a Boys and Girls Club event in Cleveland, and pointed out that "there are privately some hesitations" with the Browns about Hillis.

Freeman also wrote that Hillis' absence at the charity event might be "some sort of misunderstanding more than a blow off." According to Hillis on Wednesday, that's exactly the case.

Via our Browns Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, Hillis apologized for missing the event and called it a "miscommunication" with his management team, not him simply skipping the event.

"If I had known the full depths of it I would not have missed it," Hillis said. "Still, I'm truly sorry and there's no excuse."

The worst part of Hillis absence is the timing of the whole thing. Hillis was considered after last season's breakout the ultimate Cleveland star athlete, mixing a blue-collar attitude and work ethic en route to re-establishing a dominant, power rushing attack for the Browns.

But he's struggled mightily this season, topping out at 97 yards on the ground in Week 2, and averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in four games.

Rumors have run rampant about Hillis' unhappiness with his contract status, and there've been questions as to whether or not Hillis could have played when he was sick/hurt.

At this point, the only thing Hillis can really do in order to make it up to the city of Cleveland is get on the field and start producing again, although a charitable donation to the Boys and Girls Club probably wouldn't hurt either.

On the bright side, at least he's living up to the annual Madden Curse expectations.

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Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:59 am

Should the Browns give Hillis a long-term deal?

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, the Browns signed left tackle Joe Thomas to a seven-year, $84 million extension. And in Colt McCoy, they appear to have finally settled on their quarterback of the future. It's all part of the rebuilding process overseen by team president Mike Holmgren and implemented by new coach Pat Shurmur. Cleveland also took Greg Little in the second round of the April draft to bolster the wide receiver position. And in one season, Peyton Hillis, the guy the Browns got in the trade for Brady Quinn, went from an afterthought in Denver to one of the Browns' best players.

Hillis was so good, in fact, that he ended up on the cover of Madden 12. After spending the first two years with the Broncos where he managed 397 yards on 81 carries, Hillis ran for 1,117 yards on 270 carries (4.4 YPC, 11 TDs) and added 477 receiving yards (and 2 TDs) in 2011.

In addition to the Madden love, the Browns are now talking about extending his contract.

Given Hillis' importance to the Browns' offense, and that McCoy could use all the weapons he can get, the extension makes a lot of sense. Yes, page/TEN">Titans shouldn't pay Johnson">we're not big fans of overpaying for running backs because you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one capable of rushing for 1,000 yards, but we can't imagine that Hillis will be asking for Chris Johnson money. (Granted, it's still not clear what constitutes "Chris Johnson money," but it's more than what the NFL's highest-paid back currently makes.)

Still, the Browns blog, Dawgpound Daily, asks an important question: Would signing Hillis to a long-term deal be a good idea?
With just one solid season under his belt … there is no guarantee that he will come close to those numbers again or, worse, stay healthy. Hillis’ running style is not kind to his body, and it was evident in 2010, as he battled injuries for much of the second half of the season.

Most likely, the Browns will give Hillis a fair amount of guaranteed money and let him earn the rest of the contract. Luckily, the team is flush with cash to spend (they have more than $18 million in salary cap room) and can afford to take a chance on Hillis.
If the idea is to surround McCoy with playmakers then keeping Hillis is a no-brainer. But questions about his durability are certainly relevant; it's not like Hillis tiptoes out of bounds whenever he gets the chance and shies away from contact. He's a fullback by nature and seems to enjoy steamrolling defenders. That takes a toll.

The real reason we wanted to write about Hillis is to show this video. Because, really, there's nothing quite so awesome as Peyton Hillis vs. Chuck Norris.

For now, though, he's just happy to be playing football. "When you are playing a game, that’s when you know you are truly blessed," Hillis told Forbes.com recently. "I’m looking forward to another big season with the Browns to show fans how much we appreciate them."

And speaking of the fans, he has nothing but good things to say about those who voted him onto the Madden 12 cover. "This has been a humbling experience and I want to thank all the fans in Cleveland and throughout the country that got behind me and voted each and every week."

Enjoy it, Peyton. Because it's only a matter of time before fans start making fantasy demands and you just snap.

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Posted on: August 31, 2011 10:12 am

Browns talking extension with Peyton Hillis?

Posted by Will Brinson

If one thing's become abundantly clear since the Browns fleeced the Broncos for Peyton Hillis (they gave Brady Quinn in return and got some draft picks as well!), it's that Hillis goes with Cleveland like potatoes and perogies.

So it kind of makes sense -- knowing that general manager Tom Heckert wants to lock in "players we like and want to be here" and knowning that they've shored up the left side of the offensive line for the future -- to hear that the Browns and Hillis are talking about a contract extension.

That's according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, who reports that the "wheels have begun turning" in order to get Hillis more money than the four-year minimum of $455,000 he'll make in 2011.

Hillis has seen his Q-rating skyrocket over the last year, thanks to his explosive 2010 season when he rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. That performance led to widespread love from fantasy football players and, eventually, a spot on the Madden 2012 cover.

The latter came about because of a grassroots campaign that was, as Hillis told me during the unveiling, absolutely overwhelming in terms of public support.

And now his success appears to be paying dividends, though the Browns and Hillis certainly aren't making a big, public fuss about getting the running back more money.

Which seems appropriate on all fronts.

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Posted on: August 30, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 5:29 pm

Eric Steinbach's disc will end his season

SteinbachPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Turns out the back injury that Cleveland worried could keep guard Eric Steinbach out for the season will do exactly that.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur, via Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, told reporters today that Steinbach’s disc injury has forced the team to put him on the season-ending injured reserve list.

Even though Steinbach underwent surgery Tuesday and Shurmur said it went well, he won’t be back until next season.

As Gitlin writes, it’s serious blow for a team that now has to replace him at the left guard spot. The Browns could try rookie Jason Pinkston in the role, or they might test out newly-signed Oneil Cousins instead. John Greco also could get a shot.

If none of those players work, Gitlin says, Cleveland will head back into the free agent market to find someone to line up on the inside of tackle Joe Thomas.

“He made the decision yesterday, late in the day, that he was going to have surgery,” Shurmur said, via the team’s official website. “We tried to do some treatments to see if it would rectify itself. It didn’t, so that was the next action.”

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Posted on: August 22, 2011 9:09 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 9:26 pm

Browns, Thomas agree to 7-year, $84M extension

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We don't know if Titans running back Chris Johnson will point to this as more evidence he deserves to be the NFL's highest-paid player, but either way, the Browns have signed left tackle and 2007 first-round pick Joe Thomas to a seven-year, $84 million extension that reportedly includes $44 million in guarantees, a league source tells the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.

Thomas has been one of the Browns' most consistent players since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999, and he is the cornerstone of an offense that finally appears to have a quarterback in Colt McCoy. (Yes, we're aware of similar conversations about Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.) Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, has started all 64 games in his four-year career, and has never missed a snap.

"Joe is obviously one of the finer left tackles in the business,'' coach Pat Shurmur said, according to Cabot. "He's a very, very good pass protector. I guess what's impressed me is that he's a fine run-blocker as well. Typically, you find a guy that's good at one and average at the others, but I think Joe is good in both phases, extremely good.

"He's big, has good feet, balance and body control. He has pretty good power for a guy that's a tackle. And he has a feel for the game. Usually what makes a player good is kind of a combination and he's blessed with a lot of those things.''

The Browns' offensive line has been the least of their worries in recent seasons. In addition to the revolving door at quarterback, the running and passing games fell somewhere between inconsistent and nonexistent. Trading for Peyton Hillis prior to the 2010 season immediately upgraded the rushing attack. And the emergence of tight end Evan Moore, and the addition of rookie Greg Little could give McCoy the downfield weapons he'll need to have any chance at success.

Ultimately, it all starts up front with the o-line, and Thomas has been a big part of that.

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Posted on: June 14, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: June 14, 2011 11:57 am

McCarthy not worried Packers aren't working out

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Opinions vary on the long-term importance of player-organized workouts. The lockout prohibits coaches and players from communicating, so until there's a new CBA, these informal training sessions are all we have. Or, if you're the defending champion Green Bay Packers, you forgo the workouts altogether and wait for the season to officially begin.

It's one thing for the Carolina Panthers to take this approach; they would immediately be ridiculed for not wanting to improve on last year's 2-14 season. It's something else entirely when the Super Bowl champs do it. It's akin to fans and media mocking the Raiders for taking on Randy Moss' baggage but praising the Patriots for doing the same thing a few years later. The difference: Bill Belichick has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Same deal with the Packers. And perhaps it's why we haven't heard much consternation about the fact that they haven't held informal get-togethers during the lockout. Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy, appearing on ESPN Milwaukee with Jason Wilde, addressed the issue Monday.

“I’m more interested in them being together as a group for Greg Jennings’ event or Donald Driver’s event," McCarthy said. "I think that’s as important as them going onto the field and trying to manufacture a practice. I think anytime you have a group of people, especially professionals, there’s other factors involved that obviously have to deal with risk. Part of our business in the training environment is risk assessment.

"It’s important for these players when they do come together for the first time that there’s a progression you go through as you get ready as a group. I know in my heart that every one of them has been taking care of business on an individual basis, and I know some of them have gotten together in small groups. They’ll be ready.”

Seems perfectly reasonable to us.

It also parallels the observations Browns tackle Joe Thomas made this week when he said that fewer OTA and minicamp sessions during the offseason might be better for the players in the long run.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning called the workouts "better than nothing," which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for their effectiveness.

"It's kind of the best we can do under the circumstances," Manning said Monday, according to the New York Daily News. … "[The sessions were] really to just kind of get some of the young guys out there, to get Jerrel (Jernigan, the Giants' third-round pick) and some of the draft picks, to get them to meet some of the guys, learn a little bit of the terminology," Manning said. "You get worried. You don't know how long this lockout is going to be, where if it goes too long they'll never be able to catch up and it'll be a wash of a year for them. You're trying to prevent that."

Manning's less concerned with the veterans. "You can get your timing in training camp," Manning said. "We've got guys that have been there before."

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Posted on: June 14, 2011 8:51 am
Edited on: June 14, 2011 9:34 am

Joe Thomas in favor of fewer offseason workouts

Posted by Ryan Wilson

After a three-month staring contest that appeared to accomplish little, there is finally some movement on the lockout front. Optimists think it could be settled in the next week or two, while the glass-half-empty set pegs mid-July as the more likely scenario.

Either way, that means real live NFL football, complete with free agency, training camp and a season that starts on time. While we wait for the owners and players to work out the details, we're left to speculate on, well, just about everything.

Not having organized team activities and minicamps will make it tougher for rookies to transition from college to the NFL, and the lockout didn't do any favors for those undrafted free agents who remain unsigned. But Browns' left tackle Joe Thomas doesn't think missing spring workouts is the worst thing in the world.

Appearing on Denver's 102.3 The Ticket, he explains:

"I think it can be good and it can be bad," Thomas said. … [F]or some of the veteran guys and the veteran teams, the OTA minicamp, all the spring work and stuff like that maybe became a little bit too much and could be a little bit of extra grind on the body and the mind. Come January and February people were a little bit worn down and those same veteran teams and I think Green Bay is going to be especially rewarded for the team they have.

"You kinda take a step back and you get a chance to think about other things and refocus your mind and get your body a little bit fresh, think about the rehab and the stretching and the other things you can do in the offseason on your own is going to probably pay off because the season is going to feel shorter and your body is going to be healthier at the end of the year and I think the mind will be a little fresher."

There have been concerns that the lockout-induced "everybody for themselves" approach to keeping in shape out could mean some low-quality football, at least early in the season when teams are essentially still in preseason mode. But Thomas doesn't consider that a big problem. "You may see, at the beginning the football not being as good, but at the end I think you may see guys that are more fresh and more ready to go after it.”

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was pushing the 18-game schedule earlier this year, part of his pitch included reducing the offseason workload to keep players fresher during the regular season. Pretty much everyone agrees that extending the schedule by two games is a horrendous idea, but there could be a groundswell of support from players at the thought of limiting OTAs and minicamps (but still no more than 16 games). The owners don't make money during the offseason, and we've gotten to point because spring and summer workouts turned into an arms race. "If our division rival is doing it then so are we!" the thinking went.

So, Roger, if you're looking to smooth things over with the players, there's your olive branch.

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Posted on: July 12, 2010 12:04 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 12:14 pm

Position rankings: offensive tackles

Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on offensive tackles.

Josh Katzowitz’s top five

5. Jon Stinchcomb, Saints

4. Jake Long, Dolphins

3. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets

2. Ryan Clady, Broncos

1. Joe Thomas, BrownsJ. Thomas (US Presswire)

This is the first top five list for offense we’ve done, and naturally, we start with, other than quarterback, perhaps the most important position on the field. We speak, of course, of the offensive tackle (specifically, left tackle, but on this list, we won’t discriminate against anybody playing on the right side). Tackles have finally been recognized for their importance, as teams are doling out huge contracts to pay the men who protect the quarterback.

Thomas is as quick a left tackle as you’ll find. He’s an outstanding run-blocker who uses his mobility to turn away onrushing defenders. Quite simply, he might be the best offensive linemen in all of football.

Clady gave up 0.5 sacks in his rookie season in 2008, which is pretty amazing. He took a small step back last season, but his blend of athleticism is impressive. He’s coming off a serious April knee injury, though (tore his patella tendon playing basketball). The Jets obviously think highly of Ferguson, considering he was the first of New York’s “core four” to sign a contract extension. He’s becoming more of a complete player – especially with his run-blocking during the past two seasons. Long doesn’t always do so well against the speediest pass-rushers in the league, and there were times last season when Miami’s coaches had to give him help in protection. Still, he’s made two Pro bowls in his first two years in the NFL.

And because I have to get a right tackle in there, I went with Stinchcomb. I think the Jets’ Damien Woody and Tennessee’s David Stewart were pretty good candidates, but Stinchcomb allowed only three sacks on more than 1,000 snaps last season (he allowed only one sack in about the same number of snaps the season before). Plus, he grades out as one of the better run-blockers in the league. Hmm, I wonder what Andy will think of my Stinchcomb selection. 

Andy's top five list

5. Michael Roos, Titans

4. Jared Gaither, Ravens

3. Jake Long, Dolphins

2. Ryan Clady, Broncos

1. Joe Thomas, Browns

If putting Stinchcomb on your list is meant as a joke, that’s funny. If you’re being serious, that’s even funnier. Stinchcomb is a grizzled mauler in the run game, but he’s a liability in pass protection. He surrenders few sacks because Drew Brees takes few sacks. Stinchcomb is maybe a top five right tackle. But for tackles overall? He’s not even top 25.
People hardly notice Roos because he’s so steady and fundamentally sound that he never stands out on TV. His long arms are a major asset. I hesitate to put Gaither here because I hear so many gripes about his attitude and work ethic. But in the end, his raw talent is second to none, and he’s improved his technique and awareness every year in his young career. We’ll see how he does on the right side this season.

Long has lived up to his No. 1 overall draft status thus far. He gets out of his stance quicker than any blocker in the game. Clady is the most athletic offensive lineman in the NFL. Thomas, however, was a tad more consistent in 2010. He can get out in front and even change directions as a run-blocker, plus pass protection comes easy to him.

I like Ferguson – he’s my No. 6 (or No. 5 if Gaither has another screw-up).

Josh, I was glad to see you didn’t follow the mindless herds that think Jason Peters or Bryant McKinnie are elite players. Both guys are paid like elite players, but both are below average left tackles. That’s right – below average. Talent-wise, they’re amazing. But output-wise, they’re unforgivably inconsistent. Peters has shoddy technique and McKinnie is soft.

You mentioned that tackle is a position getting its due. It’s true – too true, in fact. Because of Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side, left tackle has become the chic position. It makes a person feel smart to talk about how important the left tackle is. In reality, the best teams in recent years have not had the best left tackles. Not even close, in fact. The most obvious example? The Saints and Colts both had atrocious left tackles last season (Jermon Bushrod and Charlie Johnson). And look at the guys on our lists. How many are from playoff teams?

Josh’s rebuttal

It’s funny you bring up The Blind Side; neither of us picked the subject of that book, Michael Oher. I’ve talked to a few offensive tackles – none of whom are on my top five list – who basically scoffed at Oher’s play. They believe the only reason people know Oher is because of the movie. I’m glad to see you didn’t put him on your list either.

I agree that Stinchcomb is not one of the five best tackles in the league overall. But, unlike you, I felt it was necessary to put a right tackle on the list (Gaither doesn’t count, because he hasn’t played there before). Sure, a left tackle might be the most important spot on the offensive line – if you want your quarterback to finish the season with his head still attached to his shoulders – but without a good right tackle, a quarterback will still feel the brunt of many sacks. (He’ll just see them coming instead.) In regards to right tackles, Stinchcomb is the best (with the possible exception of the injured Willie Colon). His Pro Bowl selection means that somebody agrees with me.

As for Roos, I’m not sure he’s the best tackle on his team, much less the league.

Andy’s final word

I’m not going to bother arguing about who’s better between the polished Roos and gritty Stewart (by the way, gritty = euphemism for “unathletic and unrefined”). I will, however, respond to your righteous attitude about right tackles. I didn’t get the memo from our editors saying we had to compromise the integrity of our lists simply to acknowledge the best guys from the inferior tackle position.

I’m not a right tackle hater – I’ll even rank my top three: 1. Damien Woody, Jets; 2. Ryan Diem, Colts; 3. Ryan Harris, Broncos. I would have had Oher at two if not for his move to the left (those offensive tackles who criticized Oher are speaking out of jealousy). If Jammal Brown is as good in Washington as expected, he’ll overtake Woody. After all, Brown is so gifted that he’s spent most of his career playing the premium left side position.

Other positions: Safety | Cornerback | 3-4 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Punter  | Kicker | 4-3 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Inside Linebacker | Defensive Tackle | Defensive End)

--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com