BEREA: Surrounded by platters of sushi, redemption undoubtedly became a theme of dinner-table conversation Wednesday night for the new faces of the Browns.
Running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden planned to discuss their goals of bouncing back from disappointing NFL debuts while eating together at Shinto Japanese Steakhouse in Strongsville. Both are confident they’ll rebound Sunday when the Browns (0-1) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1).
“I ain’t worried about it, and we ain’t worried about it,” Richardson said Wednesday after practice. “We know that we’re gonna come together as a team, and we’re gonna do what we’ve gotta do. We’re gonna get our timing down. We’re gonna get the right play-calling down. We’re gonna come together as a unit. Our defense is gonna keep doing what they’re doing. Special teams are gonna keep handling their business, and we’re just gonna back everybody up.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, rushed for only 39 yards on 19 carries (2.1 average) in the Browns’ 17-16 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. On first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 13, he also dropped a pass in the flat that could have resulted in a touchdown during the second quarter.
“I was kicking myself, but at the same time, I’ve gotta get up and wipe it off,” Richardson said. “I can’t look backward, but I looked at that play probably two or three times, and I just knew I had a touchdown or I knew I was gonna get positive yards on that play. That’s not me. I got too happy. I smelled the end zone. If I could have just reached my hand out, I felt like I was touching it. So I got too excited. It won’t happen again.”
Weeden’s performance was even uglier. He completed just 12-of-35 passes for 118 yards, with four interceptions and two fumbles, finishing with a wretched passer rating of 5.1. He has forced himself to ignore the outside world ever since.
“I’m not tone deaf, I’m deaf,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. “I don’t listen to it. I don’t need other people telling me how bad I played. I know I played bad, so I’m not going to sit here and listen to anybody. These guys in this locker room, they’ve got my back and that’s really all I care about.
“I still to this day haven’t checked Twitter, don’t plan on checking Twitter. I don’t watch SportsCenter. It’s not my thing. If I play well, I’ll flip through and watch it, not to [watch] me, but to watch the stuff. I know I played bad. I don’t need the nation to tell me how bad I played.”
Weeden’s outing was so brutal that coach Pat Shurmur was asked Monday about fans clamoring for backup quarterback Colt McCoy to get a shot. Shurmur defended Weeden and made it clear he’s sticking with him as the starter.
“I talked to Coach Shurmur on Monday and then again yesterday and he told me the same thing,” Weeden said. “[General Manager Tom] Heckert said the same thing. It’s one bad game. You put it all in perspective. If I continue to do bad things, that’s on me. But I got to continue to build. I think they have a lot of confidence in me and my abilities, and they wouldn’t have named me the starter if they didn’t.
“I just got to prove to them that I’m the guy, continue to prove I can get better, not make the same mistake twice — I tell you guys that all the time — and go forward. I appreciate all the confidence they have in me, and I have the same confidence in myself. I just got to play better.”
After the game, Weeden spent time with family and friends who were in town. He needed the support.
“It was tough,” Weeden said. “I’ve scuffled — definitely scuffled in some games — but I don’t think I’ve had a four-quarter stretch like that where I’ve scuffled for an entire four quarters. Obviously, as a parent, you don’t want to see your kid do that. But my parents are supportive. They were like, ‘Brandon, it’s going to get better.’
“It can’t be any worse than it was the first week. … We’re all going to have rough stretches. I think, obviously, mine was the first week. I look at the mistakes I made, and you guys saw them. Guys were wide open, and I missed them. That’s not my character, not the way I usually throw the football.”
The Browns certainly hope not. The mistakes of Weeden and the offense spoiled the defense’s stellar effort, which was highlighted by middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s interception return for a touchdown and four other takeaways. Jackson sent Weeden a text message Sunday night encouraging him to keep his head up.
“I’ve told the defense over and over until I’m blue in the face — they should’ve won us that football game,” Weeden said. “That made me feel worse than anything. They played so well, so I’ve got to help them out and come away and just make one play.”
Strong safety T.J. Ward believes Weeden and Co. will reciprocate.
“I think they’ll come out roaring and much improved from last week,” Ward said.
“Usually [Weeden is] pretty accurate, so I was kind of surprised by the overthrows. … It was tough on him. I’m sure he’ll bounce back this week.”
Richardson said the players have faith in Weeden. And Richardson knows they believe in him as well.
“I’m always my biggest critic,” Richardson said. “That’s just me. I’ll always criticize myself and want to get better.”
Undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9 and missing all four preseason games obviously took a toll on Richardson. He didn’t have his usual burst against the Eagles, but he’s sure he’ll knock the rust off. He said his knee has responded well since Sunday, as evidenced by his full participation in practice Wednesday.
“I’ve had no problem with it,” he said with a smile. “If you want to go outside, I’ll race you now.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.