BEREA - Left tackle Joe Thomas didn`t know the NFL gives an award for offensive rookie of the month.
When he found out Thursday that he had won it for November, he couldn`t believe it went to an offensive lineman.
"I was a little shocked," he said. "It`s kinda cool."
Thomas, the No. 3 pick out of Wisconsin, has started all 12 games and been a key component in the success of the team and offense. The Browns are 7-5 and the offense is fourth in the NFL in scoring and sixth in total offense.
"No question it`s a reflection on the offense and how we`ve been playing," Thomas said.
The Browns went 3-1 in November, and Thomas was a member of the line that gave quarterback Derek Anderson time to throw for 364 yards in a win over Seattle and opened holes for Jamal Lewis to rush for 134 yards vs. Houston.
"I think I`m playing pretty solid," Thomas said. "I don`t know if November was any better than the month before, but apparently it was."
Coach Romeo Crennel said it usually takes three years for a rookie to become a top-notch player, but he`s been pleased with Thomas` progress.
"His ability to adapt to whoever he`s facing is probably the thing that he has accomplished the most as this season has gone on," Crennel said. "You always face different guys rushing off that edge over there and he`s been able to adapt to everybody - the power rush guys, the speed guys - and has been able to hold his own.
"He still has a lot to learn but he`s a good worker. He has a chance to be a good tackle for a long time in this league."
Thomas (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) has already played as many games as he would`ve in an entire regular season at Wisconsin, and has at least four games left. He said he doesn`t believe in the "rookie wall," when first-year players supposedly run out of gas.
"It`ll exist if you let it and are constantly talking about it and thinking about it," he said. "It`s like anything else, if you believe it exists, you`re going to hit it. But if you just play every game one at a time, you`re not going to feel anything different than in college.
"I actually feel pretty good right now. Romeo`s taking good care of us. I don`t feel anymore banged up than I did in September."
CRIBBS HONORED, TOO
Joshua Cribbs was named AFC special teams player of the month for November. He leads the NFL with 1,560 kickoff return yards and a 31.2-yard average, and ranks sixth with an 11.6 punt return average. He also leads the Browns with 17 special teams tackles.
In November, Cribbs averaged 35.0 yards on 19 kickoff returns with a touchdown, his second of the year. He had six tackles and a forced fumble.
Cribbs ranks second in AFC Pro Bowl voting for kick returner with 110,195 votes, behind New England`s Wes Welker with 112,216. Cribbs will also be added to the ballot â€“ coaches and players vote next week - in the special teams category, which is for performance in areas besides returning.
IT IS WHAT IT IS
Crennel didn`t pull any punches Wednesday when asked about the last-ranked defense.
"The thing that concerns me is that we`re not good," he said. "All you have to do is look at the stats. We can`t stop the run and we don`t rush the passer efficiently enough."
So Crennel was asked Thursday how an answer like that plays in the locker room.
"I don`t ask them," he said of the players. "They know how I feel about them. The stats are what they are.
"At times, our defense has played well and we`ve made some stops when we had to that helped the team win some games. The kids on defense, they`ve worked very hard and are very conscientious. They want to be good. We just aren`t consistent enough."
Crennel said he hasn`t heard from the league on whether the officials` call on the final play of the 27-21 loss to Arizona was correct. When he does, he said he won`t share the information with the media.
Tight end Kellen Winslow caught the ball in the end zone near the sideline but wasn`t able to get two feet inbounds as two Cardinals made contact with him in midair. The Browns were hoping it was ruled a force-out, but the official just signaled incomplete.
The competition committee will review the force-out rule in the offseason. Currently, an official can call it a completion if he believes the receiver would`ve come down inbounds had there not been contact by the defense. There`s a growing sentiment that the force-out rule should be eliminated, meaning a player must get both feet inbounds regardless of the actions of the defense.
"That would clear it up," Crennel said. "Coaches and players want the calls to be consistent. If saying both feet need to be inbounds is the way to get it all the same, I`m OK with that."
Linebacker Antwan Peek (knee), tight end Steve Heiden (ankle) and linebacker/special teamer David McMillan (knee) didn`t practice.
Nose tackle Ethan Kelley and cornerback Eric Wright, who both missed the last two games with knee injuries, were limited for the second straight day. Right tackle Kevin Shaffer (knee) and defensive ends Robaire Smith (neck), Orpheus Roye (knee) and Simon Fraser (knee) returned to practice and were limited.
Fan voting for the Pro Bowl continues until Tuesday on NFL.com. The fan vote is a third of the selection process, with voting by players and coaches making up the other two-thirds. The coaches and players must turn in their ballots next week, and the rosters will be announced Dec. 18.
* The Browns practiced inside but with all the doors open. A vocal minority of the players didn`t appreciate the cold.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or email@example.com.