BEREA: Rookie running back Trent Richardson believes the only way he won’t play Sunday in the Browns’ regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles is if coach Pat Shurmur decides to err on the side of caution.
Richardson practiced Wednesday for the second time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery Aug. 9 on his left knee to have a piece of loose cartilage removed. In his first interview since the procedure, Richardson said he has not experienced swelling in the knee, it has responded well to the pounding of practice and, in his mind, he’s ready to make his NFL debut on time.
“I think Coach knows best as far as me having a good career and stuff like that, so if he don’t feel like I’m ready, that’d be the only thing that’d keep me out,” said Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft. “But other than that, mentally, I’m ready to go.”
In a radio interview Wednesday with 92.3 The Fan, General Manager Tom Heckert indicated he expects Richardson to play, barring any setbacks.
“Obviously things are looking up, and hopefully he’ll be there,” Heckert said. “Unless anything changes, he’ll be there on Sunday.”
Richardson had limited participation in practice, according to the Browns’ injury report. If Shurmur chooses to play Richardson in Week 1, he might limit his carries.
“Hopefully I get in there [and] there ain’t no limit,” Richardson said. “But if it is, I’m still gonna play every play like it’s my last.
“I feel a major difference in [my knee]. I’ve got fresh legs, so I’m ready to go.”
The Browns had the NFL’s 28th-ranked rushing offense (95.7 yards per game) last season, and they’re counting on Richardson to turn it around. Rushing the ball successfully against the Eagles is vital to combating their stellar pass rush. Last season, they co-led the league with 50 sacks.
“Obviously he’s a huge addition,” rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “Being able to turn and hand him the ball is one of the best plays we have in our playbook. You have to respect him. Guys in the box have to account for him. He’s obviously an extremely gifted runner. I’m excited to see him pass block, I’m excited to see him catch balls out of the backfield, do all those different things. He’s a guy I’m excited to have back in this lineup, and I know he’s chomping at the bit to start playing again.”
Eagles coach Andy Reid refuses to take Richardson lightly, even though he might need to shake off some rust.
“He’s a heck of a football player, so that’s what we’re expecting,” Reid said during a conference call. “You talk about a guy that was a great college player [at the University of Alabama]. He’s built for the NFL game. So we know with him, you’ve got size and speed, toughness, quickness, and you better wrap him up and make sure that you tackle well with him.”
Richardson said the problem in his knee developed over time and was unrelated to the torn meniscus he had repaired in the same knee Feb. 3. He said he could have played in the preseason opener Aug. 10, but the Browns chose to take a proactive route, so it didn’t become more of a serious issue later.
“It doesn’t worry me at all,” said Richardson, who kept up with his conditioning by working out in a pool and running. “I’m very confident in my knee. I try to be 110 percent in everything I do. I know Coach is going to put me in the right situation with the right trainers and our medical staff. They’re doing everything they can to help me get back to 120 percent, not 110. I can tell the big difference now, and it’s not going to give me any trouble down the line. I’m ready to go.”
Richardson will practice in full pads today for the first time since returning. The 5-foot-9, 230-pound Richardson shouldn’t deliver any hits in earnest during practice, but he’ll be tempted.
“I’m very anxious to take a pop and give one,” Richardson said. “In my head, it’s I’m going to get hit or give a hit. To me, if you’re a running back you don’t want to get hit too many times. You want to give that first hit. I can’t wait.”
Sitting out all four exhibition games frustrated Richardson. It tested his patience.
“I couldn’t stand watching the preseason games and not being out there,” Richardson said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve touched the football. I just felt like I’ve got to make sure I’m a part of this team. I’ve got to get on that field and contribute to this team. So just watching them, I was very antsy. I just had to take that time and realize that this might be one of the best things for me as far as resting and getting my leg right. This might be the best thing for my career here.”
The first two seasons of Richardson’s career at Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla., were derailed by injuries. He tore a ligament in each ankle and had them surgically repaired by Dr. James Andrews, who also performed the recent knee operations.
In other words, conquering adversity is nothing new for Richardson.
“It’s just a minor setback for a major comeback — that’s how I look at it,” he said. “I don’t look at it as being a downer. God put me in situations because he knows I can fight through it. He won’t put me in nothing I can’t bear.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.