By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Several Browns players were relieved Monday afternoon to be able to talk about the team’s safe arrival Sunday night at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport despite a rough landing in bad weather.
“It was terrifying,” guard Jason Pinkston said. “It was the real thing. The weather was so bad. We were coming in to land and [the pilot] had to go kind of fast to balance it out. We came down and we hit on two wheels. The right wing was literally three feet from hitting the ground.
“We’re actually pretty lucky to be alive right now to be honest. Everything kind of paused for a while. You never really think you’re going to be in that situation to where you might have an emergency on a plane, but yesterday put things in perspective. You’ve really got to be thankful for being alive, and it was that close.”
The Browns (4-6) rushed out of Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday evening following their 41-20 loss to the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (7-4), so they could try to fly home from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport before severe thunderstorms would prevent them from doing so. The team made contingency plans to take buses back to Northeast Ohio but opted to take its charter flight on United Airlines.
“I’m sure the conditions were stressful for our pilots, who did a phenomenal job,” team spokesman Zak Gilbert said. “It’s important to note that neither our team nor United Airlines would’ve given us clearance to depart if our safety was in jeopardy. The airport also gave us clearance to land.”
The flight was short, but players said the descent into Cleveland was turbulent and the landing was frightening because the plane tilted to the left as it touched down.
“Holy cow — I swear the wing was a couple feet from the ground, defensive end Billy Winn said. “At the last second, it was dead quiet right before the landing. We’re going to land, it got real quiet, and I heard this big gust of wind and [the plane tilted], came back and we recovered. We had a great pilot, a fantastic pilot. Bless his heart for getting here safely.”
Pinkston said he thanked the pilot and shook his hand after the flight.
“I prayed the entire 45 minutes,” Pinkston said. “I talked to the plane the entire way. I talked to some family members who have passed away, just to guide us.
“We really escaped one. We got away with one last night. When I went home, I got my daughter and held her for a good 30 minutes, just kissing her, telling her I love her. That’s how scary it was. That’s how close it was.”
Tight end Jordan Cameron’s description wasn’t as dramatic.
“Everyone was freaking out,” Cameron said. “I didn’t think it was that bad. There was some turbulence, but it wasn’t too serious, at least I thought so. Some guys were calling their moms after the flight.”
Some players thought the landing was a closer call than others.
“If they said it wasn’t that bad, they’re lying to you,” Winn said. “It was a little rough.”
“It was pretty bad,” wide receiver Davone Bess said. “But we’re here today to talk about it and can thank the man upstairs.”
Rookie linebacker Brandon Magee declined to take the flight home in the stormy skies. He made the trip back on the highway with the team’s equipment crew.
Pinkston said he wishes he would’ve joined Magee.
“The people around the team and the coaches, we really realize how fortunate we are that it didn’t take a turn for the worse,” Pinkston said. “That’s how close it was.”
After long snapper Christian Yount reviewed video of the game, he blamed himself for a misfired snap and a failure to pick up a stunt called a “pick twist” by the Bengals that led to Spencer Lanning’s punt being deflected by safety Shawn Williams and going 9 yards to the Browns’ 38-yard line.
“The snap wasn’t where it needed to be, so I’m sure that had some affect with the get-off time,” Yount said. “At the same time, if we pick up the [stunt], it’s not an issue. It was kind of a perfect storm.”
The Browns later surrendered their first blocked punt since 1993 when Bengals linebacker Jayson DiManche blew past rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and running back Chris Ogbonnaya got to Lanning. Safety Tony Dye fell on the ball and return it 24 yards for a touchdown with 4:35 left in the second quarter.
Mingo blamed himself after the game, but Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said linebacker Eric Martin, who was lined up beside Mingo at right tackle, should have blocked DiManche.
Chudzinski conceded losing special teams captain and outside linebacker Quentin Groves to a season-ending ankle injury has forced the Browns to shuffle players on the punt team. Groves played guard on that unit.
“The effect of losing Quentin is having to move guys around, but that’s no excuse,” Chudzinski said. “There’s no excuse for getting punts blocked.
“It was very disappointing and unacceptable. We need to be better in that area. [Specials teams] has been a strength for us this season. And uncharacteristically we didn’t play well, and we had two major breakdowns there. We’ll get that corrected.”
Starting inside linebacker Craig Robertson (sprained knee) and backup wide receiver Armanti Edwards (sprained ankle) were scheduled to undergo MRIs, Chudzinski said. … Chudzinski said he’s trying to find out from the NFL why officials mistakenly spotted the ball at the 2-yard line when it should’ve been at the 1½ after Browns quarterback Jason Campbell threw an incomplete pass on second down with 4:20 left in the first quarter. Campbell then threw incomplete again on third down. Chudzinski elected to have Billy Cundiff kick a field goal because he said he wanted to take the points with the weather expected to become a factor as the game progressed. But Chudzinski also said, “If [the ball] would have been closer [to the goal line], I may have gone differently on that.” … Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey, who the Browns claimed off waivers Sept. 1 from the Baltimore Ravens and released last month, rushed for 163 yards on 30 carries (5.4 average) and scored three touchdowns Sunday. “I’d love to have him here,” Chudzinski said. “I’m glad he’s doing well. Where we were at with the roster at the time, we were short on some other positions and just had to make some moves, particularly for some other positions and for some special-teams considerations as well.” On Oct. 18, the Browns waived Rainey, placed safety Josh Aubrey (ankle) on injured reserve and promoted wide receiver Tori Gurley and cornerback Julian Posey from their practice squad to the active roster. They already had backup running back Fozzy Whittaker on the roster, so they chose him over Rainey.
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.