By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle Friday and will miss time early in the regular season, coach Rob Chudzinski said during a conference call.
Chudzinski declined to reveal the specifics of Lauvao’s injury or a timetable for his return. Chudzinski wouldn’t disclose whether Lauvao suffered torn ligaments, but he said Lauvao did not break a bone.
“He’s going to get a scope on that,” Chudzinski said. “He’ll miss some time early in the regular season. I don’t have any definitive dates and times on that. We’ll just have to see how that goes from the results of the scope, and how he’ll progress over the next few weeks.”
A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Lauvao is expected to miss about six weeks, which would sideline him for the first two or three regular-season games. The Browns will open the regular season Sept. 8 at home against the Miami Dolphins.
Lauvao, a third-round draft pick in 2010 who has started the past 32 games at right guard, was hurt Monday and carted off the practice field after nose tackle Phil Taylor bull-rushed him during a one-on-one pass rush drill.
Jason Pinkston filled in for Lauvao at right guard Thursday night during the Browns’ 27-19 win over the St. Louis Rams in the preseason opener. Pinkston played the entire first half, even though the other starters left early in the second quarter. He is the clear favorite to secure the starting right guard job in Lauvao’s absence.
“I was pleased with Jason’s performance,” Chudzinski said. “He did well along with the group of ones up front, and then he continued and played a little bit more. We wanted him to get him more work and keep working him back into things. But he did a good job. I was pleased with him.”
Pinkston started the first 22 games of his career at left guard until a blood clot in his lung was discovered in October, the cause of which is still unknown. The condition forced him to miss the final 10 games of the season, and he spent six months on Coumadin, a blood thinner. He couldn’t work out for a long time, and he couldn’t eat vegetables because of possible interactions with his medication.
The 6-foot-4 Pinkston returned to action in May during organized team activities and has lost about 25 pounds since April while working himself back into shape. Pinkston said he now weighs about 320 pounds. He played at 318 last season.
If Pinkston can return to form, the Browns will certainly be better equipped to absorb the loss of Lauvao.
“Jason has had experience there and has played there and been effective there,” Chudzinski said. “So that’s definitely a high hope for us.”
A fifth-round draft pick in 2011, Pinkston had never played a game at right guard until Thursday. Pinkston conceded Monday that he’s still not entirely comfortable at his new position.
“I never played right guard before, so my feet are backward,” Pinkston said. “So I’m trying to get them together. It’s definitely a learning period for me, but I’ve got to be ready. I really don’t have a choice.”
Starting left guard John Greco has experience at both guard spots, but Chudzinski said he would like Pinkston to remain on the right side and Greco on the left.
“I like where they’re at right now,” Chudzinski said. “I think Greco’s been playing over there and been playing solid ball. And Jason, again, I was pleased with his performance last night. ... I think we’ll work it this way for a little while here. I know that John has flexibility being able to play on the right side as well. But I think the guys play next to each other and then they start to develop a little chemistry, so I’d like to see how that evolves with Jason staying on the right side, and in the back of our minds, we know that we potentially could flip-flop it if we had to.”
Chudzinski said rookies Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick, and Caylin Hauptmann, who joined the Browns as an undrafted free agent, are the main backups at right guard along with Jarrod Shaw, the No. 2 center.
Veteran right tackle Oniel Cousins, who has been sidelined for most of training camp with a sprained ankle, could also move to guard, Chudzinski said.
Gilkey, however, might be the top backup right now, even though he’s transitioning from Division II Chadron State College to the NFL.
“We’ve been focusing him mostly at left guard, but he will get right guard reps along the way,” Chudzinski said. “Anybody that’s in that position as a backup needs to be able to play multiple positions and play on both sides. So in the individual drills and things, he’s getting reps on both sides.
“I think he did a good job [in the preseason opener]. He was pretty solid in there in his protections, and his effort was really good finishing blocks. He showed some physicality, and I’m pretty sure no mental mistakes. So I think he did a good job.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.