CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Bengals fans might want to stuff their chant that goes "If it's Brown, flush it down." Offensive tackle Joe Thomas of the Browns has popped up in Afghanistan signing autographs and posing for pictures with troops in the combat zone. No Bengals were in sight or on the trip. The photo was taken five days ago by Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Williams at Bagram Airfield. Thomas visited service members along the flightline, then went to a USO center at the base named for Pat Tilman, the NFL player who quit football to join the military. Tilman was killed by friendly fire in the early days of the war; the Army tried to cover up the mistake.
Thomas, at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds, has been with the Browns since 2007, when he was a first round draft pick out of the University of Wisconsin. His wife, Annie, is a former Wisconsin basketball playwer. Thomas is from Brookfield, Wisc., and went to Brookfield Central H.S. where he captained the football and basketball teams and made the academic Honor Roll. He's traveling with three other NFL players through the war zone -- San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, House Texans defensive end Mario Williams, and Cowboys tight end Jason Whitten. Thomas is blogging, though he hasn't disclosed exactly where he's been. The Air Force released the photo from the Bagram flightline. Here's Thomas about a night in the field: "Our group has really been in awe of just about everything. We watched troops fire off mortar rounds so loud they literally shook the ground. We spent one night at a "black out base" -- meaning that the base isn't lit up at night for security reasons. The players bunked up, two to a room, in small wood cabin rooms that had nothing more than one bunk bed with two mattresses. We brought sleeping bags to put on top of the mattresses."