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DRANGO UNCHAINED

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The former fifth-round pick steps in for a legend and tackles life on the edge

EVERY STREAK has to end. I hated to see Joe's end the way it did, but I didn't have time to think about that. I had to get ready to go in. I knew Joe would miss at least one play, and I didn't say anything to him as he left the field. I figured he'd be back soon. I mean, it's Joe Thomas.

I remember the first time I missed an NFL snap: It was my first start, at left guard last season; a tight end fell into my leg and I sprained my MCL. I missed one play and came back in and finished the game. Joe even made a joke about it. He made sure to note that his streak was still alive.

When you're a rookie going through the draft process, everyone tells you your teammates won't be too helpful; you're taking someone else's spot. Not Joe. He helped everyone, especially the young guys. He taught me that details matter—your hand placement, your first step....

He texted me last Saturday, before his first game away—my first game in his place. He said "good luck," asked what I needed and said he'd be there for me all year. We talked through my game plan and I got his insights. I knew Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen is a great player and a bull rush guy. I tried to take that away from him, create some air between us. Joe helped me with that, and I slept great before the game. I felt surprisingly normal. I showered; ate pancakes, waffles and an omelet; and took the 9:30 a.m. bus to the stadium. The game really felt normal after the first hit.

We lost 33--16, but I thought we played pretty well. My coaches and teammates told me they were proud of me. Even Everson found me after the game and told me I'd played well.

Nobody joked about the streak; no one mentioned Wally Pipp. But I'll point out: I didn't miss a snap. I'm not sure what that's about. Maybe there's something in the water with these Browns left tackles.