July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Pinkston is in hospital


Brian Dulik

The Gazette

BEREA — Browns starting left guard Jason Pinkston has been hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs and is out indefinitely, putting the rest of his season in jeopardy.

The second-year pro became ill Sunday during Cleveland’s 34-24 victory over Cincinnati — reportedly throwing up on the sideline — and was diagnosed with the serious health issue after being limited in practice Wednesday.

“I’m very thankful our medical staff did a great job of taking action,” Pinkston tweeted Friday. “Catching it at an early stage, it’s obviously clear I won’t be playing for some time, but more importantly, I’m thankful to be alive.

“Thanks for everyone’s support. Coaches, teammates, friends, fans and family have been great. It’s just a bump in the road. Go Browns.”

Pinkston had taken every offensive snap in his first 22 NFL games until he became sick during the Browns’ first series against the Bengals. The 25-year-old was replaced by John Greco, who will start in his place Sunday when Cleveland plays at Indianapolis.

According to tackle Joe Thomas, Pinkston “has definitely been struggling with something for a couple of weeks, so definitely there was concern about him.”

“Hopefully this is something that can be treated quickly and he can start feeling better soon,” Thomas continued. “That’s the most important thing, him being back to good health. Playing football and everything else is secondary because we’re worried about our teammate.”

Browns coach Pat Shurmur declined to reveal when Pinkston was admitted to a local hospital, but said his status would be updated following the Colts game.

“Jason is going to miss this week and as we go through next week, we’ll determine if he’s going to miss an extended period of time,” Shurmur said. “He’s been battling and this is one of those things that happens. You’re just hopeful that he can come back from it.”

Pinkston — a fifth-round selection out of Pittsburgh — was forced into the starting lineup as a rookie when Eric Steinbach suffered a season-ending back injury during training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder played the position well enough that the Browns released Steinbach on March 14.

“Jason is a great player for only being in his second year, but he’s also a teammate and a good friend,” Greco said. “We went and visited him last night, just to try and build his spirits up because we wanted him to know we were thinking about him.”

While all of Cleveland’s offensive linemen said they will miss Pinkston’s presence, they also stressed that the team was fortunate to have a four-year veteran like Greco ready to step in. The 6-4, 315-pounder joined the Browns in a trade with St. Louis on Aug. 1, 2011 and played in 15 games last season.

Five-time Pro Bowl honoree Thomas praised him for his work against Cincinnati, calling it a “pretty seamless transition.”

“John hadn’t gotten a whole lot of reps at left guard in practice, but he did well for having to step right in,” Thomas said. “Now, having a full week of practice there should be really helpful for all of us, just getting used to playing together.”

Greco’s four previous NFL starts came with the Rams at right guard, where he also saw significant action last year after Shawn Lauvao was hurt. The Boardman High graduate and University of Toledo product has served as Cleveland’s primary backup at all three interior line spots since his acquisition.

“Normally, you focus on playing center because once you know one position, you can play them all,” said Greco, who made 36 starts at left tackle with the Rockets.

“Obviously, though, I’m more comfortable at guard because it’s where I’ve spent most of my time in the NFL. But I definitely could play tackle if I needed to, as well.”

Shurmur said Oniel Cousins and rookie Ryan Miller will also be active in Indianapolis, sharing Greco’s usual role as “the next man up.” Both seldom-used linemen are listed as tackles on the Browns’ official depth chart, but will have to play guard, if needed.

“You’ve got to be ready to play everywhere at this level, which is kind of my calling card now,” said Greco, who remains Pro Bowl center Alex Mack’s backup. “It’s not easy early on, but I’m used to it now and kind of enjoy it.

“My whole goal last week was I didn’t want a drop-off when I went in. Hopefully, that was the case, and I plan on being even better against Indy.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.