BEREA, Ohio — Last October 14, the Browns were on their way to a 34-24 over the Bengals at home – their first win of the season – but something wasn’t right for Jason Pinkston.
He left the game not feeling well. Soon after, he was in the hospital fighting for his life with a blood clot in his lung and he missed the rest of the season on injured reserve. He was cleared to return to practice in March and Thursday night will be his first game action since last October.
“Yeah, it will (be big),” Pinkston said. “It will be the first time running out there for a meaningful game. I remember knowing something was really, really wrong and I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was overall happy because our team just beat Cincinnati.”
Pinkston said he’s still getting himself back into football shape.
“I’m still getting there,” he said. “I still have a lot of work to do. I haven’t been in a game for six or seven months. It’s still going to take some time to get used to, moving my feet again and moving my hips.
“Football shape is different than just being in shape, so it’s still going to be a grind to get ready for the first game, to be in the shape you need to be in to play 14 plays,” he said. “But we still have a couple weeks before we actually play (the regular season), so I think there’s enough time for me to get those down and accomplished before we open up with Miami.”
Pinkston (6-4, 305) was a fifth-round draft choice in 2011 and he started all 16 games as a rookie at left guard. He started the first six games at left guard in 2012 before he was sidelined.
Meanwhile, John Greco took over at left guard for Pinkston and started the final 10 games at the position. He impressed the new coaching staff and front office enough to sign a five-year contract extension last month. Pinkston has been in a battle with Greco and Shawn Lauvao for one of the guard positions, but the general consensus is it was between he and Lauvao for the right guard job.
“It’s tough, but you know it’s a business,” Pinkston said. “It’s going to be the next guy up when something happens. I’m taking it as it is and I’m still here working because it’s such a long season, so anything could happen. I could be in there tomorrow as the starter. There’s no such thing as you can’t lose your job from injury, and I think some people around the league, they get confused with that. Sometimes you get banged up and someone gets in there performing and the team’s rolling. Why pull them out? You just can’t do that.”
Lauvao seemed to be ahead of him thus far in training camp, but Lauvao injured his ankle in Monday’s practice blocking Phil Taylor and was carted off. Pinkston might get the start in the first preseason game Thursday with the Rams as Lauvao did not practice Tuesday. Pinkston was in Lauvao’s place with the starters at right guard.
Rob Chudzinski didn’t give an update on Lauvao’s status after Tuesday’s practice, but did confirm it was an ankle injury.
“He suffered an ankle injury, but we’re still evaluating it.”
Chudzinski said he will update his status Wednesday.
There was a little concern when Pinkston headed to the locker room with about 20 minutes left in Tueday’s practice and didn’t return, but Chudzinski said there was no injury.
“There’s no problem at all,” he said.
It was later disclosed he was excused by the coach to attend a funeral.
“It’s tough,” Pinkston said of Lauvao’s injury. “You never want to see somebody get hurt in a training camp practice. It didn’t look to serious. Maybe they took him off for precaution just to make sure he’s ok.”
After starting 22 straight games at left guard, Pinkston admitted it is an adjustment playing right guard.
“I never played right guard before so my feet are backward so I’m trying to get them together,” he said. “The left side is more natural for me. It’s definitely a learning period for me, but I’ve got to be ready. i really don’t have a choice.”
“We’ve actually been working on him both sides,” Chudzinski said Monday. “I think it remains to be seen which side I like him the best. His ability to move back and forth is a good thing. He’s been getting back to form. That’s a process to be going through; he’s been through a lot. I am seeing signs, especially these last few days, of improvement.”
Pinkston doesn’t take any of his time on the field for granted after what he experienced last season.
“So you look at it like that, I’m just happy to be able to come out here and practice and have a chance at starting for a job again,” he said. “When I was out, guys would ask me how I’m doing and I was like, ‘You don’t know when it could be over.’
“I was a doctor’s appointment away from not being able to play football again, so I’m thankful every day I’m able to put pads on and practice and be out here with my teammates again.”
— The Browns announced they have extended the contract of long snapper Christian Yount for five years. He is the second player the Browns gave an extension to recently. Greco received a five-year extension last month.
“Christian has proven that he’s a reliable contributor,” Chudzinski said. “He’s an important cog at an often undervalued position. We’re happy to have him on our team.”
Yount, a 6-1, 256-pound veteran in his third NFL season out of UCLA, is now signed through the 2017 season. He has seen action in 28 career contests and has added four special-teams tackles. Yount was signed during the 2011 season and replaced Ryan Pontbriand.
— The following players continued to be on the sideline working with trainers: RB Montario Hardesty (hamstring), WR David Nelson (knee), OL Oniel Cousins (ankle), FB Brock Bolen (calf), OL Chris Faulk (knee) and TE Brad Smelley (hamstring). Not on the field were OL Ryan Miller (head) and Lauvao (ankle).
— Running back Trent Richardson practiced but did not run with the first team in preparation for the Rams. Most likely, Richardson will sit the game out with a shin ailment. Safety T.J. Ward (hamstring) also practiced but was replaced by Tashaun Gipson and Johnson Bademosi during team drills. He might also sit out the game. Chudzinski said he will update the injury situation and who will play on Wednesday.
— Chudzinski said the plan for the preseason opener is to play the starters the first quarter with the second team playing the majority of the second and third quarters followed by the third team in the fourth quarter. He said there will be certain individuals who will play into various time frames.