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The Cal Ripken of the NFL

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Take a quick break from Ravens training camp to appreciate a competitor and a talented division rival....

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I know this is a Ravens blog and some are bothered by occasional articles featuring news on our division rivals, but sometimes there are relevant or inspiring tidbits that are begging to be shared. One such nugget of information I came across today was deserving of a mention for its sheer awesomeness.

Joe Thomas, the elite left tackle for the Cleveland Browns who has made the Pro Bowl all 8 years of his career, has not missed even one snap.

Peter King had this to write earlier this week about Thomas:

"Duty and honor, mostly."

Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas is getting into Cal Ripken Jr., territory with his consecutive games played streak. Those are the words he used the other day to describe why he thinks it’s so important to play every game from beginning to end. He knows no other way. Since being drafted in 2007, Thomas has started all 128 Cleveland games. That’s not a big story. This is: He’s played all 7,917 offensive snaps for the Browns in his nine NFL seasons.

This is despite three strained or torn knee ligaments along the way, and two high ankle sprains, and despite the Browns trying to get him a respite a few times when they know he’s ailing a bit. The closest The Streak came to ending was last Oct. 14, midway through the fourth quarter of a surprising 31-10 Browns win over Pittsburgh. Offensive line coach Andy Moeller, who knew nothing about Thomas’ streak, sent backup tackle Vinton Painter on the field to replace Thomas with a couple of series (likely) left to play.

"What are you doing out here? Get back! Get back!" Thomas said to Painter, shooing him off the field. Later, Thomas went to Moeller and to the offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and told them he had never missed an NFL play and, with all due respect, wasn’t going to start now, particularly not in a very rare moment of triumph against the rival Steelers.

In all, 7,917 straight offensive plays averages out to 989.6 offensive plays per season, 61.9 offensive plays per game, in 44 wins and 84 losses. Twice in eight years the Browns have been in serious contention in December, but no matter. Thomas played every snap in probably 40 games that were borderline or truly meaningless to anything except Thomas’ pride and the streak.

Not your traditional Stat of the Week, but the Ripken of the NFL deserves some credit for it, to be sure.

Quite a feat from Thomas, at a position where a tweak or sprain can totally throw off your entire game and performance. Fitting for him to be mentioned as the NFL's iron man with such a track record. The Browns are lucky to have him as their franchise left tackle, holding down the blindside.