By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: The Browns are in the market for a right guard again after their trade for John Moffitt was voided Tuesday because the team had concerns about his health.
The Browns shipped defensive end Brian Sanford to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday in exchange for Moffitt because they needed to bolster their offensive line with guards Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston set to miss the early part of the regular season as a result of ankle injuries. The Browns now have Sanford on their roster again.
A third-round draft pick in 2011, Moffitt started the first nine games of his rookie season before suffering torn ligaments in his left knee that required surgery. He also had elbow surgery last year during training camp.
Moffitt reported to the Browns’ headquarters Tuesday and spoke to the media before practice about his new opportunity. But when Moffitt walked onto the practice field carrying a helmet and wearing a uniform, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski escorted him back into the team’s training facility.
The rights to Moffitt reverted back to the Seahawks, and then they traded him to the Denver Broncos in exchange for defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, the Broncos announced Tuesday evening.
It’s the second time in three years the Broncos have traded for a player the Browns turned away. In 2011, the Browns’ deal with the Philadelphia Eagles for defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley was voided, and the Broncos then swapped a draft pick for Bunkley.
With Moffitt out of the picture for the Browns, rookie Garrett Gilkey is the favorite, at least for now, to replace Lauvao and Pinkston while they’re hurt. Veteran backup tackle Oniel Cousins is also a candidate.
Unless the Browns make another move quickly, Gilkey is expected to start Saturday when the Browns visit the Indianapolis Colts in the third preseason game.
Gilkey, a seventh-round draft pick from Division II Chadron State College, didn’t take the Browns’ attempt to acquire another guard personally.
“No overreaction,” Gilkey said Tuesday. “You need to come in and put forth your best effort and work as hard as you can. If anything, it’s more motivation to keep getting better and refine my technique.”
Last week during the Browns’ win over the Detroit Lions in their second preseason game, Pinkston started at right guard in place of Lauvao, who suffered a high left ankle sprain in practice Aug. 5 and underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery four days later. But early in the first quarter, Pinkston suffered a high right-ankle sprain.
Gilkey filled in for Pinkston and immediately faced Lions star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
“It definitely helped,” Gilkey said. “The more I’m able to get out there, the more I’m going to get comfortable and feel like things are natural. Being able to go against high-level competition like Suh definitely allowed me to get a better taste and a bigger feel for playing in this league.
“Coming from a small school, I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. I definitely have more to prove. I’m not going to settle. I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep getting better as long as I’m allowed.”
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Gilkey knows exactly what he must work on to help the Browns.
“My takeaway from every session after each game is I need to continue to get better, whether it’s my pass pro or my run blocking,” Gilkey said. “Personally, I want to work on my pad level and my punch when it comes to pass protection and my aggressiveness and how I finish in the run game.”
Lauvao is expected to miss the first two or three regular-season games. He said ligaments and bone were cleaned out during the surgery.
“I’m going to play it by ear,” said Lauvao, who used a crutch and a walking boot to scoot through the locker room. “I’m just trying to stay on top of my rehab. I’ll do whatever the docs tell me to do. I’m just taking it day-by-day.”
Like Lauvao, Pinkston was wearing a walking boot. He said the timetable for his return is about four weeks.
“I was a little frustrated,” Pinkston said. “But it happens.”
Pinkston missed the final 10 games last season with a blood clot in his lung.
“This is definitely a lot easier than the blood clot because I know I’ll be back,” he said.
Other injury updates
Running back Dion Lewis will likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve after undergoing surgery on his fractured left fibula Monday, Chudzinski said. Lewis suffered the injury last week against the Lions.
Chudzinski also ruled out rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) for Saturday and said more evaluation must be done to determine how long he’ll be sidelined.
Although the Browns haven’t been able to identify a specific hit in their exhibition meeting with the Lions that would have definitely caused Mingo’s injury, Chudzinski doubts it happened before the game. Mingo, who watched practice Tuesday, believes it happened during the opening kickoff.
“It is really irrelevant at this point when it happened,” Chudzinski said. “There is still uncertainty on that. We are just waiting. Everybody’s body heals differently and at a different rate. It is just what we are waiting on to see.”
Starting defensive end Desmond Bryant continued to sit out practice Tuesday with back spasms.
“I don’t expect it to be anything serious at all,” Chudzinski said.
Cornerback Trevin Wade was sidelined Tuesday with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, Chudzinski said. Wade suffered the injury while diving to intercept a pass Saturday during practice.
Wide receivers Jordan Norwood (hamstring) and Naaman Roosevelt (hamstring), kicker Brandon Bogotay (groin) and punter T.J. Conley (groin) also continued to sit out.
Plan for Colts
Chudzinski intends to start the same players against the Colts who’ll start in the regular season. But he also said jobs at right guard, cornerback, kicker and punter are the exceptions because they’re still up for grabs.
In his preseason debut, starting running back Trent Richardson absorbed a big hit from Suh along the Lions’ sideline but made it out of the game healthy.
“I feel good,” Richardson said Tuesday. “I finally got a real big hit. I didn’t feel it at the time, but a couple days later, it was like, “Aah, this man did hit me pretty hard.’ But it was fun.”