Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas has been selected to start for the AFC Pro Bowl team, the NFL announced Tuesday night.
No other Browns players were selected to the Pro Bowl this season. Seven were named alternates.
Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 312-pound left tackle, has now made the Pro Bowl in each of the four seasons since he was drafted out of the University of Wisconsin with the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Thomas is one of 19 Browns players to earn Pro Bowl honors at least four times. He is also one of five offensive linemen to achieve the feat (the others were Lou Groza, 1951-56; Abe Gibron, 53-56; Dick Schafrath, 64-69; and Gene Hickerson, 66-71).
"I think I've played a little bit better than I did the first three (years)," Thomas said. "I think I had a real good year last year, and I think my game has improved.
"I think I understand the system this year. I think I understand the intricacies of my blocks, the guy who's next to me (and) his blocks. I think I really focused a lot this year on improving my technique in the run game, and I think it paid off."
Many observers, though, have labeled 2010 as a disappointment for Thomas. He has struggled at times in pass protection this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Stylez G. White and Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham beat Thomas while pass rushing earlier this season, leading to quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace suffering high-ankle sprains. Still, Thomas believes he has improved throughout the season.
"You look at Atlanta and sure, I'll be the first to admit I didn't play well in that game," Thomas said. "But any season it doesn't matter who you are. You're gonna have bad games, and those things happen. Sometimes it's a little bit more under the microscope. Sometimes people don't even realize it if you have a poor game. Certainly that one was more recognizable because of the sacks, but in this profession you've got 16 weeks, and you've gotta take each week by itself. And that's what I try to do. I think you can't let one bad week ruin the season for you. You can't dwell on it. You've got to look forward and try to play your best game the next week and try to bounce back as quick as you can, and I think I did that."
Kick returner Josh Cribbs and left guard Eric Steinbach won the fan voting at their respective positions, but neither one made the Pro Bowl. Running back Peyton Hillis finished third among AFC running backs in fan voting, but he didn't make it, either.
Fan balloting counts for one-third of the total vote. The players and coaches determine the rest. Thomas was not voted in by the fans.
Hillis, Steinbach and center Alex Mack were named second alternates. Cribbs, special-teams ace Ray Ventrone and fullback Lawrence Vickers were chosen as third alternates. Rookie cornerback Joe Haden was picked as a fourth alternate.
The Pro Bowl will be played at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
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