By Nate Ulrich
and Ryan Lewis
Beacon Journal sports writers
BEREA: As Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao was carted off the field Monday in the final half-hour of practice with an injured left ankle, Jason Pinkston knew he must be ready to provide reinforcement.
“We’re lucky at guard because obviously Pinkston has a lot of starts under his belt, and he’s a good guard and he’ll be able to step in for however many practices Shawn will be gone,” six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “I think everybody’s got a lot of confidence in [Pinkston].”
Lauvao, a third-round draft pick in 2010 who has started the past 32 games at right guard, suffered the injury when nose tackle Phil Taylor bull-rushed him during a one-on-one pass rush drill. As Lauvao moved backward, he lifted his left leg and collapsed to the ground. He remained there on his knees with his helmet pressed against the grass until two trainers helped him onto a cart while he avoided bearing weight on his left leg.
In his post-practice news conference, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said he did not know the severity of the injury.
Pinkston said Lauvao was hopeful after he suffered the injury, though it’s unclear to what extent the optimism was warranted.
“He thought he was all right,” Pinkston said. “He said, ‘I’m fine. I just twisted my ankle a little bit.’ Hopefully it’s not [serious], but you never know. They’ve got to look at it still, and do whatever they do. They’re the doctors.”
Lauvao has taken the majority of the first-team reps at right guard while John Greco has done the same at left guard throughout training camp. Lauvao and Greco were with the first unit Monday.
Pinkston will fill Lauvao’s spot while he’s out. The majority of Pinkston’s reps during camp have been with the second-team offense, at both left and right guard, but he has spent some time with the first unit, too.
“I never played right guard before so my feet are backward, so I’m trying to get them together,” Pinkston said. “It’s definitely a learning period for me, but I’ve got to be ready. I really don’t have a choice.”
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 unknown. The condition forced him to miss the final 10 games of the season.
“The doctor said if I would’ve stayed in there maybe two or three more plays, or a play, I could’ve got hit and I could’ve died,” said Pinkston, a fifth-round pick in 2011. “So you look at it like that. I’m just happy to be able to come out here and practice and have a chance at starting for a job again.”
Pinkston spent six months on Coumadin, a blood thinner, and is still trying to bounce back physically. He couldn’t run for a long time. He couldn’t eat vegetables, either, because of possible interactions with his medication. As a result, he gained unwanted weight.
But Pinkston returned to the gridiron for organized team activities in May and has lost about 25 pounds since the end of April. He said he now weighs 320, two pounds more than his playing weight last season. He believes he’ll be ready for full-time duty by the time the Browns open the regular season Sept. 8 against the Miami Dolphins.
“Absolutely,” Pinkston said. “We still have a couple weeks before we actually play, so I still have some things that I can work on, and I think there’s enough time for me to get those done and accomplished before we do open up with Miami.”
The Browns will certainly need him then if Lauvao is still sidelined.
Running back Trent Richardson returned to practice Monday and was limited in team drills after sitting out the previous two sessions with a sore right shin. Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he rests Thursday night in the preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams.
Last week, Richardson said he was kicked in the shin, the same one in which he suffered a strained muscle during OTAs in May. He sat out part of OTAs and the team’s entire three-day mandatory minicamp in June with the injury.
Chudzinski said Monday he has not decided whether Richardson will play Thursday.
Richardson had a carry in an 11-on-11, goal-line drill and two more carries in a regular team drill. He looked sharp while running and cutting.
“We just wanted to work him back in,” Chudzinski said. “Again, we’re going to be smart with him. We have a plan for him from a general sense, and we want him to be able to work, to get better and be able to come out here on a daily basis through training camp.”
Richardson has said he wants to play in all of the exhibition games but will defer to Chudzinski.
The Browns released their first official depth chart Sunday with Chris Ogbonnaya listed as their starting fullback. Ogbonnaya has primarily been a tailback throughout his career.
“He’s a very versatile guy,” Chudzinski said Monday. “He’s able to play tailback and run the ball. He can play fullback and he can block. He can pass protect and catch passes. He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. Those types of guys you can find roles for, and they can help you win.”
From an X’s and O’s standpoint, the transition shouldn’t be too difficult for Ogbonnaya, who said he played some fullback while at the University of Texas
“You always need to know what to do at running back and at fullback. It hasn’t changed as much,” he said. “It’s just doing the job, period, point blank.”
Owen Marecic, Brad Smelley and Brock Bolen are behind Ogonnaya on the depth chart.
Running back Brandon Jackson is entering his third season with the Browns, but he hasn’t spent a lot of time in a Browns uniform on Sundays.
After signing with the Browns in 2011, Jackson missed the entire season with torn ligaments in his big toe. Last year, he appeared in only two games and was inactive for 13.
“There’s a lot of people who think I can’t play just because I haven’t been playing,” Jackson said Monday. … “[I’m] not paying too much attention to that, but just want to prove to myself that I can do it. And I will.”
Upon coming back from his injury, Jackson still wasn’t able to receive consistent playing time under ex-Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
“There was a lot of frustration with that coaching staff,” Jackson said. “But [I’m] looking forward to the new head coach and new offensive staff and just moving forward.”
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.