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Browns notebook: Guard Jason Pinkston returns to starting lineup 14 months after blood clot threatened his life

By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer

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BEREA: Fourteen months after a blood clot threatened Jason Pinkston’s life and career, he’ll be back in the starting lineup.

Coach Rob Chudzinski said Pinkston will start at left guard Sunday when the Browns (4-9) face the Chicago Bears (7-6) in the final game this season at FirstEnergy Stadium. Pinkston will fill in for John Greco, who was ruled out with a sprained medial collateral ligament he suffered this past weekend in a 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots.

“It’s been so long,” Pinkston said Friday. “Especially anything you love, [if] you get a chance of losing it, it’s emotional when you get back.”

Pinkston will start for the first time since Oct. 14, 2012, when he left a game against the Cincinnati Bengals because he felt ill. He then missed the final 10 games last season after a blood clot was discovered in his lung, and he sat out most of this season after suffering a high-ankle sprain Aug. 15 in an exhibition game.

On Sunday, Pinkston appeared in his first game this season. He rotated at right guard with starter Shawn Lauvao and later replaced Greco after he left in the second quarter.

“It’s been a long road, a tough road for him going back to the embolism and then getting back to the point during training camp where he was feeling better,” Chudzinski said. “You could see him getting back to normal, and then he has the high-ankle sprain. So we got him back, and he’s been through a lot. I’ve really been impressed with his attitude, how he’s worked [in] the weight room, all the extra things, the rehab, he was in there non-stop, and in the game [Sunday], you could see he was excited about playing again. So I feel good for him. He did a good job last week, and he’s had a good week of practice.”

Pinkston conceded he’s still trying to knock some rust off.

“I thought I did pretty good in the pass game,” he said. “In the run game, I really didn’t help myself too much or the team. That’s just from being out and not really doing it as much. I’ve been working on it this week, so it should be better.”

Clutch performance

Tight end Jordan Cameron caught what would’ve been a 4-yard, game-clinching touchdown pass from quarterback Jason Campbell with 2:39 left Sunday had the Patriots not charged back with two touchdowns in the final 1:01. Even after the Patriots rallied, Cameron grabbed passes of 18 and 13 yards to set up Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal, which he missed with no time left.

“That’s what I really want to do,” said Cameron, who finished with nine catches for a career-high 121 yards. “That’s my whole goal. My main focus is to be accountable. When the team needs somebody, they can rely on me, and the buzzwords are accountability and being reliable and those are the things I really wanted to focus on this year. And so far, I feel like I’ve shown up for my team, and I’ve just got to continue to do so.”

Cameron is fourth among tight ends in Pro Bowl fan voting with 348,998 votes. Fans can vote on NFL.com until 6 p.m. Dec. 26. Players and coaches will cast their votes Dec. 23-26. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining who’ll make the Pro Bowl. The selected players will be announced Dec. 27, and the all-star game will be played Jan. 26 in Honolulu.

“That’s what I strive for,” Cameron said of possibly making the Pro Bowl. “That’s my goal this season. You want to be the best in the league at your position, and you can’t worry about that stuff right now. It’s one of those things that’s really out of my control. I’ve just got to come out and play the best I can every week, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Numbers to watch

Wide receiver Josh Gordon needs 407 receiving yards in the final three games to break Wes Chandler’s NFL record for receiving yards per game — 129. In 1982, Chandler played for the San Diego Chargers when he set the record with 1,032 receiving yards in eight games during a season shortened to nine games by a strike.

Because of a two-game suspension he received for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Gordon has played in 11 games this season. He has compiled 71 catches for an NFL-leading and franchise-record 1,400 yards — or 127.3 yards per game.

“I think we’re going to take a look back in the offseason and really say, ‘Wow, what he did was pretty special,’” Cameron said. “The numbers he’s putting up in the limited games he’s played in, it’s awesome.”

This past weekend, Gordon set an NFL-record by reaching 774 receiving yards in the past four games. He needs 88 yards against the Bears to break the five-game record of 861 set this season by Detroit Lions standout Calvin Johnson.

“I’ve got a front row seat to a great show, and it’s fun to see what he does,” Cameron said. “And when you see him do something, it’s kind of amazing. You kind of just stop and watch him run down the field and do what he does. It’s awesome to have a teammate like that.

“I think he opens up even more stuff for me. He’s obviously a freak of nature -- the way he’s been playing. So [defenses need to] pay attention to him. Hopefully we can feed off each other and whatever looks they give him, it opens me up or vice versa. It’s a privilege to play with a player like that.”

Injury updates

Quarterback Brandon Weeden has been medically cleared to play Sunday, and he’ll serve as Campbell’s primary backup, Chudzinski announced Friday.

Weeden suffered a concussion Dec. 1 when Campbell was sidelined against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Weeden was inactive this past weekend, and he didn’t start practicing again until Wednesday. He was officially cleared to play Thursday.

In addition to Greco, the Browns also ruled out running back Willis McGahee (concussion) and tight end Andre Smith (calf). Smith suffered a strained right calf during practice Thursday and wore a walking boot Friday. Chudzinski said the team has yet to determine whether Smith will be able to play again this season.

The Bears ruled out starting weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder).

Blown call acknowledged

The NFL confirmed Browns rookie safety Jordan Poyer should not have been penalized for unnecessary roughness late in the fourth quarter against the Patriots because it did not fine him for his hit on wide receiver Julian Edelman.

The officials called a 15-yard penalty on Poyer and told Chudzinski the flag was thrown because Poyer hit Edelman in the head as he caught a 2-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 left. Replays show Edelman was hit in the shoulder and chest, not the head.

The penalty allowed the Patriots to start their ensuing onside kick at the 50-yard line. They recovered the kick at the 40, and aided by a controversial, 29-yard pass-interference penalty called on rookie cornerback Leon McFadden, scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. 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.


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