June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Browns: Lauvao suffers ankle injury

BEREA — The final period of practice Monday featured a medical cart.

Starting right guard Shawn Lauvao injured his ankle in a one-on-one pass-rush drill against nose tackle Phil Taylor. Lauvao crumpled and was driven off the field, but guard Jason Pinkston didn’t think the injury was serious.

“He said he was all right,” Pinkston said. “He said, ‘I’m fine. I just twisted my ankle a little bit.’ He put a little weight on it but they were still trying to limit it, just because they didn’t want him to hurt it.”

Coach Rob Chudzinski said he’d have an update on Lauvao today. If he is out for an extended period, Pinkston would likely take the starting job at right guard, with veteran John Greco remaining the starter on the left side.

Pinkston started the first 22 games of his career at left guard before a life-threatening blood clot sidelined him for the final 10 games last year. Greco did a good job in his place, earning a contract extension before camp and likely a starting role.

Pinkston said he’s slowly getting back to normal after the time off.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “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.”

Pinkston has dropped 25 pounds and is at his playing weight of 320. The coaches’ plan seemed to be to use him as the swing guard with the second team, but he’s still getting used to life on the right side.

“I never played right guard before so my feet are backward and I’m trying to get them together,” he said. “It’s definitely a learning period for me, but I’ve got to be ready. I really don’t have a choice.”

Pinkston seemed to be the long-term solution at left guard before the blood clot. Instead, he’s fighting for a starting job under a new coach and a new regime.

Turning to Dad

If owner Jimmy Haslam were to turn over control of the team because of future unfavorable developments in the federal investigation of Pilot Flying J, his father would take over the team, Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reported.

Haslam and the NFL developed a contingency plan after Pilot Flying J’s headquarters were raided April 15 by the FBI, Kaplan reported, citing sources. The team declined comment.

The choice of his father to take temporary leadership was expected. Jim Haslam II, 83, founded Pilot in 1958 and gave up day-to-day control to Jimmy in 1997. Haslam II played offensive lineman on the University of Tennessee’s national championship team in 1951. He accompanied his son to Cleveland last summer when Haslam agreed to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner for $1 billion.

Haslam II hasn’t been connected to the scandal at Pilot Flying J.

“No decision to step back has been made, so looking into who would take over is purely speculative,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email. “Jimmy is the best judge of how to keep the focus of the Browns on football and the fans.”

“Jimmy has no plans to step down, so the question is irrelevant,” Pilot Flying J spokesman Tom Ingram told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Haslam has repeatedly denied knowing about the fraud scheme at Pilot Flying J to cheat trucking companies of their proper rebates. Seven employees have pleaded guilty and more than 20 trucking companies have filed lawsuits.

Haslam said last month at the start of training camp that he’s optimistic about the outcome of the investigation and his family plans to own the Browns for a long time.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended Browns camp last week and refused to answer questions regarding what would happen to the franchise and Haslam’s ownership if he were indicted.

Richardson back

Running back Trent Richardson returned to practice for the first time since getting kicked in his bothersome shin Thursday. He was limited, but got a carry in the goal-line drill and a few more carries in team drills.

“It’s good to have him back out there,” Chudzinski said. “I have not decided anything about Thursday night in regard to Trent.”

The preseason opens Thursday at home vs. the St. Louis Rams. Richardson said last week he wants to play in every preseason game, but Chudzinski might be cautious.

“We are going to be smart with him,” he said. “We have a plan for him from a general sense. We want him to be able to work to get better to be able to come out here on a daily basis during training camp.”

Richardson’s one carry on the goal line was a pitchout left. He tried to turn the corner, but defensive back Kent Richardson lowered the boom and knocked Trent Richardson out of bounds.

Injury report

Starting strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring) returned to practice but was limited. Starting free safety Tashaun Gipson (shoulder) stepped up his return by participating in team drills. Johnson Bademosi took Ward’s spot with the starters. Rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter (hamstring) and cornerback Trevin Wade (tightness) also returned, but were limited to individual drills.

Running back Montario Hardesty (hamstring tendon), receiver David Nelson (knee), tight end Brad Smelley (hamstring), offensive linemen Ryan Miller (concussion), Oniel Cousins (ankle) and Chris Faulk (knee) and fullback Brock Bolen (calf) remained sidelined.

Short yardage

The offense won the battle in the goal-line drills, using a combination of inside runs and play-action passes.

Backup running back Brandon Jackson had at least three touchdowns, and Brandon Weeden hit fullback Owen Marecic on an out for a score.

The best defensive play was made by undrafted rookie safety Josh Aubrey. On fourth down, he came off the edge and dropped rookie running back Miguel Maysonet for a loss.

Extra points

Chudzinski started practice with a few rookies going one-on-one in a circle of their teammates.

• Chudzinski said Monday was the last day of system installation. The focus of practice will shift to preparing for games.

• Former Browns front office member and Patriots general manager Scott Pioli visited camp. He’s working in TV.

• Outside linebacker Paul Kruger broke a sled during individual drills.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.