BEREA: Seven months after Browns left guard Jason Pinkston learned his life was in jeopardy, he has taken a major step in his comeback attempt.
Pinkston’s 2012 season was cut short after doctors discovered he developed a blood clot in his leg that moved to his lung. For weeks, Pinkston played through symptoms the Browns’ medical personnel believed were the results of bronchitis or pneumonia, but he was eventually removed from an Oct. 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and taken to an emergency room four days later.
“The doctor said I could have died playing,” Pinkston said Thursday after the third session of organized team activities and the first one open to the media.
Pinkston, 25, spent six months on Coumadin, a blood thinner. He couldn’t run. He couldn’t eat vegetables or too much sugar because of possible interactions with his medication, so he resorted to a diet mostly of meat and carbohydrates. He gained about 12 pounds of unwanted weight and lost some endurance.
“It was ugly,” Pinkston said.
His football career was on the ropes until April 12, when a fairy-tale day unfolded.
Pinkston’s girlfriend gave birth to his first child, Martha Jane Pinkston, at 12:21 a.m. at Fairview Hospital in Cleveland. He named his baby girl after his mother, who died of breast cancer five years ago Wednesday. Then Pinkston drove to Cleveland Clinic to take a CT Scan at 9 a.m. A doctor called him later that day to tell him he was cleared to play football again.
“It was a good Friday,” Pinkston said with a smile.
Pinkston, who the Browns drafted in the fifth round in 2011 out of the University of Pittsburgh, started the first 22 games of his career until it was interrupted and John Greco replaced him. Practicing this week for the first time since his blood disorder was found, Pinkston worked at left guard with the second-team offense Thursday. Greco and Shawn Lauvao practiced with the starters.
“It feels great to be out here,” Pinkston said. “It feels great to be in a Browns jersey and just doing drills again. No anger here. It’s been a great week for me.
“You can’t take life for granted. I was healthy one day, and two days later, I was in the hospital with blood clots in my lung. There are days you come to work and you are sore, but when you’re out for that long, it makes you realize how much you miss it.”
The 6-foot-4 Pinkston said he now has about 8 pounds to lose with a target of 318 in mind. Although Pinkston said he feels rusty, he’s aiming to reclaim his starting job heading into next season.
“[I want to] compete for a starting job,” he said. “No one’s job here is safe. New coaches, everybody’s competing, so just try to get a starting job and get back in there and hopefully run out of that tunnel opening day for the Browns.”
Pinkston said the support of his teammates helped him keep fighting. They’re still rooting for him as he continues his journey.
“Not only is it a cool story, I’m happy for him,” Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “He’s a tough individual to go through everything that he’s had to go through. You don’t wish that upon anybody, but the way he’s bounced back has been pretty remarkable.”
The Browns reached an agreement to re-sign backup running back Brandon Jackson to a one-year contract, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team has yet to announce the deal.
Jackson, who became a free agent in March, played in just two games last season. In the Browns’ 2012 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, he caught two passes for 20 yards. In their season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he rushed eight times for 54 yards (6.8 average).
After signing with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent from the Green Bay Packers in 2011, Jackson suffered torn ligaments in a big toe in the preseason and missed the entire regular season.
Lauvao spent the first three years of his career at right guard, but he practiced on the left side Thursday. Meanwhile, Greco moved from left guard to right guard.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski sounded as if the changes are not set in stone.
“We are working all the guards at all the different spots,” he said.
Johnson Bademosi, meanwhile, moved from cornerback to free safety. He worked with the second-team defense.
“He is aggressive, good tackler and he goes 100 mph on that,” Chudzinski said. “We felt like from an athletic and physicality standpoint, that it would be worth trying to look at him at safety.”
Wide receiver Josh Gordon said the following about Weeden: “He’s a lot more comfortable. I think we are all a lot more comfortable and relaxed. We know what we are doing. We have somewhat of a relationship with each other for over a year now. I think he’s really getting into his groove and feeling more at ease.”
And Weeden said this about Gordon: “I have so much confidence in him. I’m not afraid to throw at any corner with him. He’s that good.”
Cornerback Leon McFadden, a third-round pick from San Diego State, was among the rookies who missed practice because they’re still in school, Chudzinski said. … Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, worked with the second-team defense. He dropped into coverage and broke up a pass from Jason Campbell in team drills. … Here is the first-team offense the Browns used: quarterback Weeden, running back Trent Richardson, wide receivers Gordon and Greg Little, tight ends Jordan Cameron and Kellen Davis, left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard Lauvao, center Alex Mack, right guard Greco and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Here is the first-team defense they used: left end Ahtyba Rubin, nose tackle Phil Taylor, right end Desmond Bryant, left outside linebacker Paul Kruger, inside linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Roberton, right outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard, cornerbacks Joe Haden and Buster Skrine, strong safety T.J. Ward and free safety Tashaun Gipson.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.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.