By Ryan Lewis
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: For the first time in a long time, Browns running back Trent Richardson is healthy.
He had surgery on his left knee to remove a piece of loose cartilage on Aug. 9 of last year, robbing him of just about any chance he had to prepare for his NFL debut in Week 1. Then he broke a couple of ribs in Week 6 and was forced to wear a protective vest for the rest of the season.
This past May, Richardson strained a muscle in his right shin, forcing him to miss part of organized team activities and the team’s entire three-day mandatory minicamp.
The risk, considering an already injury-riddled career, is Richardson second-guessing every step and cut he makes after multiple leg injuries within a calendar year. He says that hasn’t happened — he’s ready to go.
“I completely trust it,” Richardson said of his shin Thursday after the Browns’ first full-squad practice of training camp. “I did a lot of rehab on it, and I did a lot of stuff in the offseason to build my muscle back up. Right now, I’m feeling pretty good. It’s feeling real good. When it comes right down to it, you’re going to see my game elevate.”
When asked if he takes it a little easier in practice considering the numerous injuries, Richardson quickly shot that idea down as well.
“I don’t hold back at all,” said Richardson, who got a carry during the first play of team drills. “I still play. I play every down like I can get better and every down like it’s a new down and my last down. To me, I’m working so I can be in the game and working as if I’m in a game situation. I don’t hold back on nothing.”
Richardson said he weighs 225 pounds. He said he reported to camp last year at about 230 pounds and played at about 233 pounds. His knee surgery prevented him from running until the Thursday before the Browns’ season opener. Being sidelined put him behind physically, forcing him to try to catch up. He made progress – then came Week 6.
“I think as soon as I did catch up, I broke my ribs,” he said. “When I did that, I was just trying to make sure I could get back to where I could break tackles or get the first down or get in the red zone and score touchdowns. You work so hard to get into the red zone, you don’t want to get denied. For me, I tried to build on one day not thinking of the injuries, not thinking about the broken ribs. I knew it was in the back of my head.
I think toward the end of the season my body was telling me like, ‘Mmm don’t do too much,’ but my head was telling me I have to keep fighting, not only for me, for my teammates, fans and everybody.”
Jim Brown in Berea
Browns legend and special adviser Jim Brown was in attendance and addressed the team before the first day of training camp. Running backs of past and present spoke and don’t plan on being strangers.
“[Brown was telling me] he’s going to be on me,” Richardson said. “[Brown said] we’re going to have our one-on-ones, we’re going to have our talks but our minds have to be put together. I said our minds are already put together. You don’t have to worry about that. ... I will be getting advice from him because he is the best of all time and there’s no question about it.”
Brown recently rescinded his previous comments that Richardson was an “ordinary” running back. Richardson says it’s great to hear, but it’s nothing that will affect his approach to the game.
“There’s still a lot that I’ve got to prove, first to the fans, my teammates too and the NFL world,” he said. “I still haven’t done what I think I can do. And what my mindset is set to, I’m not going to let my head [get] big.”
Change to No. 18
Wide receiver Greg Little has switched jersey numbers and will wear No. 18 after wearing No. 15 during his previous two seasons. Wide receiver Davone Bess, a free-agent acquisition who wore No. 15 while with the Miami Dolphins, will take Little’s old number.
“A lot of it had to do with Davone,” Little said. “He has it tattooed on his back, and it worked out for me because I [wore No. 8] in college.”
Little smiled and added: “A financial transaction was made. So, I couldn’t turn it down. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Little wouldn’t say how much Bess offered for the number.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon will have a new number, as well. He switched from No. 13 to No. 12. Gordon has No. 12 tattooed on his back.
Welcome to camp
A skirmish broke out near the middle of practice involving Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and a few other players who eventually ended up in a pile. It wasn’t entirely clear how many players were in it or how it started, but Thomas was at the bottom of the pile.
“Joe was in there somewhere,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I don’t know if he started on top and ended up on the bottom or not. I was in the melee there, too. It’s training camp. Energy’s high.”
Quarterback Brandon Weeden elected not to participate.
“I wanted no part of that,” he said.
“Joe was in there, but that’s the way he is. He’s a competitor.”
Details of deal
Guard John Greco’s new five-year contract with the Browns that runs through the 2017 season is worth $13 million if he starts and includes slightly less than $3 million in guaranteed money, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team did not release financial terms of the deal.
The deal is worth about $6 million excluding incentives for starting. Its maximum value can increase to $14 million if Greco makes Pro Bowls.
Greco will make slightly more than $2 million this year.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.