Running back Trent Richardson and strong safety T.J. Ward are among the players Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has ruled out for the preseason opener Thursday night against the visiting St. Louis Rams.
“Those guys would be available to play normally,” Chudzinski said of Richardson and Ward today during his post-practice news conference. “But since it’s the preseason we’re going to be smart with them and hold them for the game.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, missed two practices last week after being kicked in the right shin, the same one in which he suffered a strained muscle in the spring. He returned to practice Monday and took three carries in team drills, but he hasn’t worked in any 11-on-11 sessions since.
Richardson missed most of training camp and all four preseason games last year after undergoing surgery on his left knee Aug. 9 to have a piece of loose cartilage removed. He made it back for the 2012 regular-season opener.
Chudzinski said he’s not concerned about Richardson’s durability and will make determinations on his status for the other preseason games week by week. The Browns will open the regular season Sept. 8 at home against the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s the preseason,” Chudzinski said. “We’ve been working him. We have a plan for that, of working him, and making sure that he gets reps as needed out here in practice. And we’ll build him to be ready for the beginning of the [regular] season.”
Chudzinski also ruled out second-string running back Montario Hardesty, who has missed most of training camp with an injured hamstring tendon.
Running backs Dion Lewis and Chris Ogbonnaya will work with the first-team offense against the Rams, Chudzinski said. Ogbonnaya is listed as the top fullback on the team’s depth chart, so Lewis will likely start at tailback.
Lewis is eager to be showcased against someone other than his teammates.
"That's one of the things about training camp, after that first week, you want to hit somebody else," Lewis said. "It's definitely going to be great to get out there Thursday and see somebody in a different color uniform."
Ward missed three practices last week with a sore hamstring. He returned to action Monday but has sat out team drills since.
Johnson Bademosi took the first-team reps at strong safety in the two most recent practices, meaning he’s slated to start against the Rams alongside free safety Tashaun Gipson. Bademosi moved from cornerback to safety this offseason, a position he had never played before.
"These reps have been real valuable for Johnson," Chudzinski said. "He's getting good, quality reps with the ones. In the long run, that's going to help him and help us."
Chudzinski said the other players who were sidelined during practice today won’t play Thursday, either.
Rookie cornerback Leon McFadden, a third-round pick in this year’s draft, is one of them. McFadden pulled a groin muscle Tuesday, Chudzinski said, and worked out on a stationary bike today.
“Hopefully we’ll get him back soon enough, and he’ll get his opportunity to show in the games what he can do,” Chudzinski said.
Other players who won’t face the Rams are right guard Shawn Lauvao (left ankle), wide receiver David Nelson (knee), fullback Brock Bolen (calf), tight end Brad Smelley (hamstring), defensive end Dave Kruger (concussion) and offensive linemen Ryan Miller (concussion), Chris Faulk (knee) and Oniel Cousins (ankle).
Jason Pinkston continued to work as the first-team right guard today in place of Lauvao, who was carted off the field Monday after injuring his left ankle. Chudzinski said he doesn’t have details on how long Lauvao will be out.
Rookies Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick, and Caylin Hauptmann, who joined the Browns as an undrafted free agent, will serve as main the backups to Pinkston and first-string left guard John Greco, Chudzinski said.