The Patriots’ first iron man since 2013? Left guard Joe Thuney
Nothing about the job Patriots offensive lineman Joe Thuney does on a weekly basis is easy.
Along with the routine work of using his 6-foot-5-inch, 308-pound frame to wall off defensive linemen, he’s always in the thick of the running game, using his athleticism to motor off the line, pull on screen plays, or make his way upfield to seek out a would-be tackler to flatten.
But Thuney doesn’t take a day off. In fact, he doesn’t take a snap off.
The third-year guard made an iron-man campaign look easy, taking 100 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps during the regular season.
The last time the Patriots had a player take every snap was 2013 (quarterback Tom Brady and center Ryan Wendell).
But in Thuney’s case, it’s been in the making since he came into the league as a third-round pick in 2016.
“Joe’s done a great job ever since he got here,” said center David Andrews. “He’s tough, he’s dependable, and you know he’s going to show up. It’s been impressive to see what he’s done.
“I think his rookie year, he might have been an iron man, too, but we took him out for some trick play or something in Denver or something like that. He’s done a great job and he’s worked his butt off to stay healthy, stay out there.”
Through his first two seasons, Thuney played all but nine snaps. Even though he had to undergo foot surgery in May, he didn’t miss a beat. Thuney’s 1,119 snaps this season put him fourth among linemen, according to FootballOutsiders.com. He was one of just nine to take all of their team’s offensive snaps.
“Joe’s had a tremendous three years of durability,” said coach Bill Belichick, who has praised Thuney throughout the season as one of the team’s best players. “We know with the time he missed in the spring, which obviously is less of a setback than it is during the season. We’ve had good consistency from all of those guys. Yeah, that’s certainly a big help. Overall, our team has trained hard.
“I think we’ve been relatively healthy all year. I think that’s a credit to obviously the players for the hard work they do, but Moses [Cabrera, the strength and conditioning coach] and his staff. They do a good job of getting these guys and putting them in position where they can perform at a high level, and also do it over an extended period of time. Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”
Thuney’s dependability is evident on and off the field. In his first season with the Patriots after three with the 49ers, left tackle Trent Brown has been able to lean on Thuney when it comes to play calls, speeding up the learning process. To backup center Ted Karras, Thuney’s the good friend and former roommate who spoke at his wedding a year ago.
“He works really hard and is consistent,” Karras said. “And like everyone else here — I can only speak for myself — but we’re showing up every day, doing the best we can to help the team win on Sundays, and I think Joe is an excellent example of that and a guy that deserves a lot of respect.”
The Patriots’ interior linemen have been a model of consistency all season. Andrews was on the field for 98.6 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, missing just 16 plays. Shaq Mason took 85.2 percent of the snaps at right guard.
“We’ve been very fortunate with the inside guys,” Andrews said. “I think we’ve missed, between all three of us, like four or five games the last three years, so it’s been pretty impressive.”
The continuity has been critical.
“We’ve been fortunate to kind of have a solid crew really in there now for the last three or four years,” Andrews said. “Then I think not only that, but each of us hold each other accountable. There might be days where you’re not feeling it, you’re a little sore. Well, you’ve got to give that much more because the guy next to you is doing it and he’s holding you accountable. So, it’s a great group of guys and everyone works in practice, and fortunately, if somebody does go down — that next-man-up mentality — there’s not a big transition. We all operate on the same page.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.