BEREA — Jason Pinkston reached a milestone Tuesday when he returned to practice for the first day of organized team activities.
That was nothing compared to his monumental day a month earlier.
Martha Jane Pinkston was born April 12 at 12:21 a.m., a few days ahead of schedule. He named his first child after his mother, who died from breast cancer five years ago.
About nine hours and no sleep later, Pinkston had a CT scan to check on the blood clots that formed in October, cost him the final 10 games of the season and put his young career in jeopardy. That afternoon the call he’d been waiting for — one that was far from guaranteed — came from the doctor.
“He told me everything looks great, go back to football,” Pinkston, a left guard, said Thursday as the Browns wrapped up the first week of OTAs. “It was a good Friday. It was an exciting day.”
On a perfect spring day in Northeast Ohio on Thursday, Pinkston was back doing what he loves, then smiling when discussing it with reporters.
“It feels great to be out here,” he said. “It feels great to be in a Browns jersey and just doing drills again, just to be in the huddle. No anger here. It’s been a great week for me.”
The happy ending wasn’t guaranteed.
Pinkston didn’t feel right as early as Week 1 of the 2012 season. He wasn’t in pain, but had a bad cold that got worse during Week 6 in preparation for the Bengals.
“So they thought I had bronchitis with a little bit of pneumonia,” he said. “I think I practiced that week some, not much. I literally couldn’t do three plays in a row, so they’d just take me out.
“I just felt out of it all week and during the game I just couldn’t make it.”
He started but couldn’t finish. He tried to practice again the next week, but wound up in the emergency room. Then the diagnosis of blood clots arrived. They started in his leg and moved to his lung.
Suddenly his starting role was gone. Football was gone. Spending all day with teammates was gone. And his career was in doubt.
All at age 25.
What was spinning through his head?
“One, that the doctor said I could have died playing,” Pinkston said. “That was big. And then obviously not playing football.”
He always planned a return to the field, but the tests would have to cooperate and the doctor would have the final say.
“I didn’t know for sure until I was finally cleared,” he said. “I was just trying to stay positive about it. I didn’t want to think negatively about it. I was already out for the season. You can’t get more negative than that.”
He could do nothing but watch as the Browns struggled to another 5-11 finish with veteran John Greco taking his snaps. His outlook on life changed as he spent hours upon hours on his couch.
“Some days when you come here and you’re sore, you’re thinking about, ‘Ah, I’m sore, I don’t want to be here,’” he said. “When I was off that six months, that’s the only place I wished I could’ve been. So I never want to take anything for granted. That’s for sure.
“I was healthy one day and two days later I was in the hospital with blood clots in my lung.”
Pinkston described himself as a “little rusty” on the field, following a couple of good plays with a stupid mistake. He just began running and working out with the team two weeks ago. He’s been off Coumadin, a medicine that prevents blood clotting, for a month.
“I feel great now. No problems. No problems running,” he said. “Just trying to get back into shape and get ready for a good season. It’s coming back.”
The lack of training and a balanced diet led to an increase in weight, but he said he’s only 8 pounds above where he should be. He arrived at camp last year at 6-foot-4, 322 pounds.
Pinkston said vegetables weren’t on his menu for the six months he was on Coumadin, because they counteract the medicine.
“It was ugly,” he said, adding junk food wasn’t allowed for the same reason. “It was pretty much meat and carbs. Obviously that’s not great for you.”
Pinkston, who said his repetitions have been slightly limited, lined up at left guard with the second team Thursday. Shawn Lauvao was the starter, with Greco as first-team right guard.
Coach Rob Chudzinski said the guards are moving around and nothing is set in stone. Lauvao spent the last two years starting at right guard.
Pinkston, a fifth-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2011, started the first 22 games of his career at left guard before the blood clots. His goal is to regain his spot.
“The No. 1 thing is to do whatever I can, but to make sure I’m doing it the right way and make sure I’m healthy and make sure I’m not rushing myself back just in case,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to get back out there, run out of the tunnel again and be No. 1.”
His teammates kept in contract through the ordeal and were glad to see him back.
“Not only is it a cool story, I’m happy for him,” 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.”