BEREA: Hall of famer Jim Brown motivated Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson by calling him “ordinary” on draft day, and now the future of the franchise is determined to put on a show for its most recognized legend.
Brown will return to Cleveland Browns Stadium for the first time in more than two years Sunday, when the Browns (0-2) host the Buffalo Bills (1-1). Richardson can’t wait.
“Going into the game and knowing he’s going to be there now, it raises the stakes up higher,” said Richardson, whom the Browns picked third overall on April 26. “It’s going to be an honor just to be on the same field as him. He’s going to be out there watching me, and hopefully he’ll give me a few words of wisdom while I’m out there. So I can’t wait to meet him, and I can’t wait to play in front of him.”
When Richardson played for Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla., and the University of Alabama, he would watch Brown’s highlights. He respects and appreciates Brown’s impact on the organization and the NFL.
“He’s always been an icon, always been somebody that you want to have a season like, have a career like,” Richardson said. “Just to meet him and just be on the same field, it means a lot. He played with the old Browns. I guess we’re the new Browns. It’s not the same field, but it’s the same stuff that he did, so I’m trying to do it just as good as him.”
Richardson obviously has a long way to go, but he took a step in the right direction Sunday during the Browns’ 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Richardson had 19 carries for 109 yards (5.7 average) and a touchdown, plus four catches for 36 yards and another touchdown.
He evaded attempted tackles from four Bengals defenders to complete his 23-yard, catch-and-run touchdown late in the third quarter. The play was far from ordinary.
“I can never tell you how I did it,” Richardson said. “It just comes out of the blue. I’m blessed and God gave me a talent that nobody can take from me, and I just try to use every bit of the ability that He gave me.”
But after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9 and missing all four preseason games, Richardson’s talent didn’t flash in the Browns’ season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished with only 39 yards on 19 carries (2.1 average) to go along with one reception for 5 yards.
Still, he bounced back from his lackluster NFL debut in dominant fashion.
“Coming into the game the first Sunday, I’d never been hit before,” Richardson said. “So it was a reaction of me being extra cautious about my knee. The second week, I was just more confident. It was just like, ‘I’m ready to go.’ ”
Richardson might be ready for a larger workload, too. He had 23 touches Sunday and played 48 of the Browns’ 67 snaps (72 percent). Although Chris Ogbonnaya served as the team’s third-down running back, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Richardson is more than capable of staying on the field.
“Trent’s an every-down back,” Shurmur said. … “For a second game, it was smart for us to do that, take a little bit more off his plate. That’s not to say that Trent won’t be out there in some third-down situations, because I think he can catch the ball and he knows how to block.”
In other words, Richardson represents what Shurmur considers “the quarterback’s best friend.” Like Richardson, rookie Brandon Weeden rebounded from a poor performance in Week 1. After throwing four interceptions and posting a passer rating of 5.1 in the opener, Weeden completed 26-of-37 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a rating of 114.9.
Weeden conceded Richardson’s breakout game helped him tremendously.
“Having a back like that, having him run the way he did on Sunday, it takes so much pressure off me,” Weeden said. “If you can run the football effectively for four quarters, you have better chances of throwing the ball well for four quarters. If you look at it, that’s just the way it works. Him having the game he had, there’s no doubt about it. I played the way I did in large part with the effects of him running the ball so well.”
Richardson is encouraged by the way the offense redeemed itself, though he’s nowhere close to satisfied.
“The game slowed down,” Richardson said. “We were all on the same page and the offense was up and running, and that’s something we’ve got to continue doing. We’ve got to do it much better this week because we’ve got to put up more points. We’ve got to win. All of them yards that Brandon threw for, all of them yards that I ran for, it don’t mean nothing if you’re not winning, so we’ve got a lot to prove.”
Who better to convince than Brown? Perhaps the “ordinary” comment pushed the right button, and Brown and Richardson will actually bond because of it.
“Hopefully,” Richardson said. “That’s the plan. I’m pretty sure that he said that for a certain reason. And trust me, it has pushed me to where I’m at to this point. I was hurt and I had to fight back, and I thought about that every day. I fought back to get to this point where I’m at right now.”
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.