BEREA: A couple days ago, Trent Richardson called all of his teammates into a huddle, urged them to practice with intensity and stressed the importance of avoiding complacency in the wake of defeat.
It was a bold move for a rookie, one Richardson hopes pays off immediately. The Browns (0-2) can ill afford a loss at home Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (1-1).
“I don’t think it’s time for settling,” Richardson said Thursday after practice. “Settling is not what we dreamed of.”
After the players stretched Wednesday at the beginning of practice, Richardson asked them to gather around him before they broke into individual drills. He drew from his experiences as a running back at the University of Alabama while delivering his message.
“We practiced hard,” said Richardson, who was part of a college team that went 36-4 and won two national championships in the past three seasons. “We won our games in the week. It wasn’t just on Saturday for us. So it’s not just on Sunday for us now. We’ve got to come out and practice hard every day if you want to win, if you really want this program turned around.
“We just need to do everything as we’re preparing for the game [like] we’re playing in the game. You practice how you play. I don’t think we’re doing that wrong, but as far as preparing, I think we just need to stay the course. The course is trying to get to that promised land. If you really got your eyes on the promised land, that’s where you need to set your goals.”
Richardson told his teammates he never wants to grow accustomed to losing. On Sunday, he had two touchdowns and 145 yards from scrimmage to go along with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden’s 322 passing yards and two touchdowns, but the Browns still fell 34-27 to the Cincinnati Bengals. In Week 1, Richardson and Weeden had dreadful NFL debuts, and the defense’s five takeaways and a touchdown were wasted in a 17-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“All them yards that Brandon had and I had, it don’t mean nothing if we ain’t winning,” Richardson said. “The defense could look good one day and if we lose, it don’t mean nothing. All those interceptions they had and all those turnovers they had the first week, it didn’t mean nothing.”
Before addressing the team, Richardson said he asked middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson for his blessing. Jackson, one of the team’s three captains, gave approval.
“He was like, ‘Go ahead man. You’re part of the team. You’re making plays. You’ve got a voice on the team, too,’ ” Richardson said. “He let me speak. I wasn’t shy at all to say it because I know 100 percent that whatever I say I’ve gotta back it up, and I’m gonna back it up.”
Tight end Benjamin Watson said he had “no problem” with Richardson speaking his mind.
“We all have stake in this whether you’re a veteran player or a rookie, whatever position you play,” said Watson, who’s in his ninth NFL season. “We all have stake in this and we have to take it upon ourselves to be leaders in our own right. It takes everybody. It takes a team effort to not lose and to win games. So he kind of speaks for all of us.
“We don’t want to get used to losing. For him obviously to say that, it shows that’s how he feels. But it’s not just him. It’s kind of a group thing, how we all kind of feel about it. Unfortunately we have been losing a lot around here lately, but it’s not something we want to continue.”
Cornerback Sheldon Brown, who’s in his 11th NFL season, likes the way Richardson handles himself.
“He’s a pro’s pro,” Brown said. “You see the way he walks around. He carries himself the correct way.”
Richardson said he received positive feedback about his speech. The Browns, who posted a record of 4-12 last season, have been trapped in a losing culture for the vast majority of their expansion era, which began in 1999.
“My teammates, they agree with me,” Richardson said. “They were like, ‘We needed that.’ Everybody had my back with it. We practiced hard [Wednesday]. We practiced hard [Thursday]. So I think everybody is getting on the right path when it comes to getting ready for this game Sunday.”
Coach Pat Shurmur and running backs coach Gary Brown also weighed in, Richardson said.
“They just all agreed on it,” Richardson said. “They loved it.”
He said the coaches told him, “Nice to hear. I’m glad. We need somebody like that. We need that stuff to happen. We need this program turned around. If you’re gonna be the voice, you gotta make sure you’re the voice all the time.”
During a conference call Wednesday, incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III told former and current suite and season-ticket holders the story of Richardson rallying the team.
If Richardson has it his way, there will be more tales to tell in the future.
“I try to lead by example now,” Richardson said. “When it comes that time and they want me to lead, I want to be a team leader. That’s one thing I’ve always been a part of. That’s one thing I know how to do. I can’t wait. I can’t wait for that moment.”
He also can’t wait to start winning.
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 at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.