Pararescuemen from 720th Special Tactics Group are hoisted up into an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter over the live fire ranges on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 15, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Moore) (Released)

BEREA, OH – Joe Thomas is free from the Cleveland Browns. The 10-time Pro Bowler was rescued early this morning by SEAL Team 6 members from the team’s facility outside Cleveland.

“We can confirm that Mr. Thomas has been rescued, that he is healthy and that he is free to pursue his football career with an organization that he deserves,” read a statement from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “SEAL Team 6 is proud to have served a great football player in this way. It was something they wanted to do on their own time simply in the service of an American citizen.”

Thomas has been one of the best lineman in football since the Browns somehow hit on him with the third overall pick in 2007 draft, but Cleveland has yet to reach the playoffs and has gone 48-112 since he arrived — with Thomas blocking for dozens of failed quarterbacks along the way.

“A lot to process right now,” Thomas tweeted this morning. “But I’m happy. I’m free!”

Details of the mission are still being established, but SEALs made contact with Thomas while he was lifting in the team weightroom around 11:30 p.m.  But before he was rescued, the offensive tackle first had to be convinced to leave.

“There was definitely some Stockholm Syndrome that had set in with him,” said a source. “I mean, this is a guy who willingly signed a 7-year extension before the 2011 season. Seven years. With the Browns. There was a lot of mental stuff he had to get through.”

But Thomas was eventually convinced that his life would be better away from Cleveland, and he was led to the roof of the facility where a helicopter took him to safety outside of Ohio. What happens next is still unclear. He remains under contract with the Browns through the 2018 season, so he may have to remain in hiding until then or seek refuge across the border in the CFL. His rescue has also created an additional problem for the Browns: dozens of players were seen begging for help on the roof of the team facility hours after Thomas was rescued.

“Help! save me!” yelled receiver Terrelle Pryor. Nearby, quarterback Cody Kessler attempted to get the attention of passing car by throwing a football at it, but missed the slow-moving vehicle by 20 yards.

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