I was glancing through the headlines yesterday and today of all the places covering Joe Thomas’ comments on Peyton Hillis and something just didn’t sit right with me. ESPN said Joe Thomas “blasts” Peyton Hillis. Dawgs By Nature said that Thomas “Rips Into” Peyton Hillis. ESPN Cleveland said Thomas “tees off” on Peyton Hillis. This is not to criticize any of these outlets either as many of them (especially Dawgs by Nature) are great sources who do valuable work. Even when Scott headlined the news yesterday he used the word “venom” to describe Thomas’ comments. These comments could easily be viewed as venomous or cutting or blasting or ripping or any other adjective you might be able to think of, but they still didn’t feel like that to me. Something about Joe Thomas’ comments seemed too truthful and pure to be as salacious as any of those other words would describe.
It’s the source of the comments as much as anything. Joe Thomas doesn’t hop up and down angry ranting and raving about anything. In fact, he rarely speaks at all in front of the microphones. Thomas is quietly known for his leadership on the offensive line including under-reported stories of him hosting the unit at his house for cookouts and unofficial team-building. He’s also been known to do this very early on in the off-season to include undrafted free agents who are unlikely ever to make the team. The one thing that it seems everyone has gotten right in this story is that when Joe Thomas speaks it means something because he doesn’t flood the universe with quotes on a weekly basis.
Still, the Thomas comments on Hillis didn’t “toss him under the bus” and blame him for the season. Thomas didn’t take it to a conclusion and say that Hillis cost his teammates wins. He instead just focused on the fact that Hillis wouldn’t listen and ended up disrespecting his teammates with his actions. He was also sure to leave in the good parts about Hillis being “hard-working, blue collar,” and “tough.”
Maybe I’m just splitting hairs here on a technicality, but I’m assuming that I’m not the only one who didn’t feel like Joe Thomas was really setting out to rip Peyton Hillis. I mean I guess he could have just not said anything at all, and most of our mothers told us that was the proper thing to do if we didn’t have anything nice to say. Still, is it “ripping” a guy if you’re sticking almost 100% to the facts and just telling the truth of what happened?
Joe Thomas didn’t tell us that Hillis was a bad person. He didn’t even make fun of him in any way, really. Thomas recounted the actions of Hillis and the actions of Hillis’ teammates to try to do what they thought they could to help him to become a part of the team again.
Maybe none of it really matters, and maybe I’m just finding a way to say that I like and respect Joe Thomas as a Cleveland Brown. In the end, that’s the real lesson in all this. There are some really good reasons that Joe Thomas is talking to the Cleveland media and Peyton Hillis is no longer a Brown while denying interview requests as a member of the visiting Chiefs. It doesn’t take an underhanded rip-job to prove that and it’s nice to finally know the truth.
(And if you needed any more proof, Joe Thomas was named the Cleveland Browns 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year as I was writing this.)