BEREA — Jason Pinkston has waited 14 months to start an NFL game. He’ll finally get the chance Sunday against the Bears, replacing John Greco (right knee sprain) at left guard.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Pinkston said Friday. “This is my first time in a long time doing this. Coming back at home and playing will be cool.
“It’s been so long, especially anything you love, you get a chance of losing it, it’s emotional when you get back.”
Pinkston, a fifth-round pick in 2011, made 22 starts to open his career but felt so sick he couldn’t finish the Bengals game Oct. 14, 2012. Life-threatening blood clots were discovered and he missed the rest of the season.
After a long wait and a lot of questions about his future, he was cleared by doctors and returned to practice in the offseason. He was in the competition for a starting guard spot, then missed the first nine games on short-term IR after a high ankle sprain in the preseason. He returned Nov. 17, didn’t play in the next three games, then finally saw his first action since the blood clots Sunday against New England.
He replaced Shawn Lauvao at right guard as part of a planned rotation, then switched to the left side when Greco left in the second quarter.
“I was just excited to play. It’s been over a year, so it was fun,” Pinkston said.
Coach Rob Chudzinski shares Pinkston’s joy.
“It’s been a long road, a tough road for him,” Chudzinski said. “I’ve really been impressed with his attitude, how he’s worked, the weight room, all the extra things, the rehab. He was in there non-stop. Just in the game, you could see him 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 was a tougher grader when asked about his play vs. the Patriots.
“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 should be better.”
Pinkston’s starts have all come at left guard, but he said after work in training camp and the last few weeks in practice he’s comfortable on either side.
Bears coach Marc Trestman has vivid memories of his time in Cleveland as an offensive assistant in 1988-89. He remembers fondly the bonfires outside the old stadium, long hours spent with quarterback Bernie Kosar and working for coach Marty Schottenheimer.
“One of my favorite experiences was being in the old stadium and being in the organization,” Trestman said on a conference call. “I loved coaching in Cleveland, loved the time I spent there.”
Trestman was quarterbacks coach for Schottenheimer in 1988, then promoted to coordinator by owner Art Modell in 1989 as Bud Carson replaced Schottheimer. Trestman was fired by Carson after the 1989 season, despite a trip to the AFC championship game.
“I learned a lot about leadership, administration and football from Marty and managing people,” he said. “My memories are very good of the year I was with Marty.
“I certainly enjoyed coaching Bernie the two years I was there. Probably learned as much from Bernie as any quarterback I’ve ever coached, certainly as smart and courageous as any player I’ve ever been around on a day-to-day and game-by-game basis. The mental toughness was as good as anybody I’ve been around.”
Trestman, who met his wife in Cleveland, interviewed for the Browns coaching job in January. The Bears hired him a week after the Browns hired Chudzinski.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden was cleared to play and will be the backup to Jason Campbell against the Bears. Weeden sustained a concussion Dec. 1 against Jacksonville but finished the game. He was inactive last week.
Greco, running back Willis McGahee (concussion) and tight end Andre Smith (calf) were ruled out for the game. Everyone else was listed as probable.
** For the Bears, linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) was ruled out.
Outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard said he was caught by surprise when Chudzinski announced he was the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year. The award recognizes a player’s community service and on-field performance.
Sheard’s charitable focus is on childhood education, and he’s a regular participant in the Browns’ community service projects every Tuesday.
“It’s my day off, I really don’t have a lot to do,” he said. “Why not go see some kids smile and change their day.”
** The league levied no fines following the game vs. the Patriots. That includes no monetary penalty for rookie safety Jordan Poyer, who was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness on a defenseless receiver on a New England touchdown with 1:01 left, allowing the Patriots to attempt an onside kick from midfield.
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