There weren’t many Browns players in the locker room during the 45 minutes open to the media this morning, but the ones who did surface tried their best to remain positive about this season in the wake of the Trent Richardson trade that rocked the NFL Wednesday night.
The new regime traded Richardson, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2014 first-round pick. The move stunned Richardson’s teammates, angered the vast majority of Browns fans and prompted the Colts to publicly celebrate.
“I think it was a shock to everybody,” Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon said today. “Everybody was definitely shocked by it. Nobody really knew. Everyone was in disbelief. I listened to and saw it on TV.”
Running back Willis McGahee, 32, is taking a physical today at the Browns’ headquarters. If he passes the physical, he’ll be signed to replace Richardson. McGahee was not at practice this afternoon during the 30 minutes open to the media.
Regardless, the trade is evidence that the Browns are in the midst of a total overhaul. They have 10 picks in next year’s draft, including two in the first, third and fourth rounds, plenty of ammunition to aid their pursuit of a bona fide franchise quarterback.
The players in the locker room, though, tried to reject the notion that the organization is tanking this season and looking ahead to the 2014 draft. They’re trying to stay optimistic after an 0-2 start and focus on their upcoming road game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (0-2).
“That’s not even realistic,” Jackson said. “In this business, there’s too much pressure on everyone to win, let alone put it on one guy. That just doesn’t happen. I can’t even fathom that.”
Added strong safety T.J. Ward: “I can understand that, but I don’t think they’ve bailed on this season, anyway. Every team is looking towards the future. That’s just the way this business [is]. Every team is looking for what they can do next year to get better and better. That’s the name of this game. I don’t think they’ve bailed on us at all, or this season.”
But Jackson understands why many fans are infuriated.
“Trent was going to be the face of this organization, high draft pick, much was expected out of him,” Jackson said. “It was yet to be determined. He had really hadn’t scratched the surface like he wanted to. He had a decent season last year, and everyone, himself, including the fan base, was ready for a breakout season. Now that he’s gone, I can see the frustration of the fans.”
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton knows there is pressure on his men to keep this season from turning into a complete collapse in the aftermath of the trade.
“I don’t think there’s any added pressure,” Horton said. “There’s always pressure in this business. We’ve had the mentality all along of put it on our shoulders anyway.
“I think it’s a challenge, and that’s what we’re looking at. We embrace the challenge to see how good we can be. I think great defenses, and I’m not putting us in that category yet, they thrive on that kind of stuff of putting it on our shoulders.”
Jackson was getting a massage at his home Wednesday night when Richardson called him to tell him about the trade.
“He was disappointed,” Jackson said. “He felt like he had a lot to prove here. So anybody in that situation, he was definitely disappointed, but he was still in good spirits. I reiterated, ‘Man, you’ve got your health. You’ve got beautiful kids. You just had a baby. You’ve just got to pick up and move and this is a part of it.’”
Jackson believes Richardson can be a great player for the Colts.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Jackson said. “They have [quarterback] Andrew Luck. He’s going to a playoff-caliber team and they needed a running back. He’s going to get his shot. He’s going to have a chip on his shoulder, and he’s going to be ready to work.”