BEREA,Ohio--Joe Thomas has seen a lot of offensive linemen come and go in his 10 seasons with the Browns.
Ever the optimist, Thomas thinks the Browns offensive line can be "really good" in 2016, despite missing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and steady right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
“I think we can be really good," Thomas said "Obviously, we’ve got three guys that have started a lot of games. Austin (Pasztor) is doing a good job as a right tackle. He’s gotten some experience as a starter. Then Cam (Erving) is the youngster that hasn’t really played a lot in the NFL, but I’ve seen good things from all the guys.
"Now, I think it’s just a matter of comprehension of the offense and getting everybody on the front on the same page and going out and executing as one unit.”
Thomas said he's has taken on a mentoring role with Erving and the other young offensive linemen, including Shon Coleman, Spencer Drango among others.
“I think after being here for 10 years, there is a pretty good understanding of all the positions that I have on the line," Thomas said. "Technique wise, schematically, I feel like I can give some good insight to all the guys on the line, but more specifically, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the process of what it takes to try to succeed as an offensive lineman, regardless of technique or assignment.
"All the young guys that have come through and become starters since I’ve been around, going back to when (Falcons C) Alex Mack was a rookie, I’ve kind of taken it upon myself to try to give those guys insight into my process and how I prepare for practice," he said. "How I prepare for games, how I prepare for my opponent, my way of understanding the technique and remembering it and learning the offense. I think those are things that those guys have said they’ve appreciated. They’ve been able to learn a few things about just how to prepare for an NFL game.”
Thomas downplayed the fact that he sat out Tuesday's practice for the third-straight day with a back issue. He did say he had an MRI on the back earlier this week, but wouldn't elaborate any further.
“Just typical old man training camp issues, back tightens up a little bit," Thomas said. "It’s the time of year that you just have to take a couple days and let it calm down and get back in the swing of things. You don’t want it to be something that lingers too long.”
Thomas wouldn't rule out playing in Thursday's game with the Falcons, but Hue Jackson will likely play it safe with Thomas.
“Just taking it one day at a time," he said. "We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’ll be lucky to be alive and maybe I’ll be luckier if I can practice.”
Thomas enters his 10th season without ever missing an offensive snap in a regular season game--8,959 and counting--entering the 2016 season. Thomas said he didn't think there was any reason the Browns couldn't have a good season in 2016--possibly even making the playoffs.
“I think that’s the environment that we’ve created, and he’s a part of that environment," Hue Jackson said. "I’ve said to our team before in front of Joe that he deserves the opportunity to be on a team that challenges for the division championship, goes to the playoffs and win the game. That’s what this is all about, and we have to help him get there.
"That’s our job – the coaches, the other players," he said. "He’s been here. He’s the cornerstone of this organization. It thrills me that he thinks that way, that he feels that way. I hope it burns a fire in all of our players and coaches that he feels that way because that’s what we’re chasing. That’s what we’re about, and that’s what we need to do.”
Coleman's Status Unsure: WR Corey Coleman (hamstring) said he's not sure if he will play on Thursday against Atlanta.
“I want to play bad, but we have to do what’s best for Corey Coleman.”
Coleman practiced fully for the second-straight day and admitted it was tough sitting out the first preseason game against Green Bay.
“I just came here to do my job and be the best I can be. It was tough. It is always tough sitting out and watching, but like I keep on saying, we have to do what’s best for me and what’s going to help the team.”
Hue Jackson said he hasn't decided who will play or who will sit out.
K'Waun Out?: Nickel CB K'Waun Williams hasn't practiced since last week and missed the Packers game. The Browns said Williams was out due to personal reasons, but a report from Cleveland.com said that he was dealing with an ankle injury that could sideline him. Williams has been battling DB Jamar Taylor for the nickel position in camp.
Hue Jackson wouldn't comment on Williams, but did say there was some misinformation out there.
“We’ll talk about that at a different time," he said. "I just think there are a lot of mixed messages that are going on as far as all that’s concerned. I think we’ll deal with it, and I’m sure we’ll all talk about it at the appropriate time.”
Jackson wouldn't confirm if Williams was back with the team.
“I’m not going to even comment on that right now.”
Scuffle: DL Danny Shelton and OL Kaleb Johnson got into a little scuffle in practice after Shelton threw Johnson to the ground. Immediately, Jackson called the whole team together to talk about not fighting one another in practice.
“I’m not interested in fights," Jackson said. "I’m interested in good football players. I know things get heated a little bit every now and then, but we have to keep our cool, keep our poise. We have to be a team that keeps their poise, and we will. Guys understand that. It happens every now and then, and that’s the first time that has happened in quite a while for our football team. Guys are practicing hard and trying to get after it. Like I said, it happens every now and then, but we’ll control that.”
Injury Update: DL John Hughes (personal) returned to the practice field after a near two-week absence and started on the stationary bike with the training staff. There is no injury, but rather the trainer's are just easing him back in after being out for a while. WR Andrew Hawkins (hamstring) worked with the trainers before practice as did DB Trey Caldwell (hamstring). Others not practicing were: RB Glenn Winston and WR Ricardo Louis (leg). QB Austin Davis is still in the concussion protocol.
Jackson said there have been no decisions as of yet on who will play and who will not on Thursday against Atlanta.
“I haven’t really talked to our medical staff yet," he said. "I normally like to wait until after practice and tonight after guys have gotten in, showered and went in the training room. As far as who for sure is not going to play, I won’t know a lot of that until tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll let you guys know soon as we do."