BEREA: Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson appeared on the practice field Saturday for the first time since Aug. 7, two days before he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a piece of loose cartilage in his left knee, but he wasn’t back in full force by any means.
During the portion of practice open to the media, Richardson wore a black sleeve on his left leg as he rode a stationary bike. Still, he has been doing more behind closed doors, including running, coach Pat Shurmur said. The progress has been good enough to make Shurmur “very optimistic” Richardson will be ready to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He’s very close [to practicing],” Shurmur said. “He’s done a lot behind the scenes, of course, that I haven’t talked about.
“We have drill work where it’s controlled where he gets banged around a little bit. We’ve been doing that kind of. Unfortunately, you’re not privy to that.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, missed most of training camp and all four preseason games. He has participated in only seven practices in full pads this summer.
General Manager Tom Heckert, though, isn’t worried.
“This kid is a little different cat now,” Heckert said. “I think he’s ready to go pretty quick compared to some people that I’ve been around. In shape-wise, you don’t have to worry about that at all. He’ll be able to do that. In a perfect world, yeah [he would have been practicing], but I don’t think it’s a really big deal. … He’s been working out and has had no setbacks whatsoever.”
Shurmur suggested Richardson won’t be coddled if he’s able to play the Eagles.
“If he plays, he will be ready to go and play the whole game,” Richardson said. “Then how we use him, of course, we’ve just got to be smart.”
But Heckert suggested being too careful isn’t the right approach, either.
“What is the caution?” Heckert said. “Is it five carries, 10 carries, 15, 20? There’s not a book that you can say, ‘All right, well this guy hasn’t played, so he should only take 20.’ Obviously, we’re not going to say he’s going to touch the ball 50 times. I doubt that’s going to happen. I think there will be some [caution], but, hey, if he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. I know it’s not the best situation where he hasn’t played in the preseason, but if he gets a whole week of practice in, we’ll see how he is.”
If Richardson doesn’t play in the opener, either Montario Hardesty or Brandon Jackson will start. Shurmur said Hardesty is still the No. 2 running back on the depth chart “at this point.”
Rookie strongside linebacker James-Michael Johnson did not practice Saturday after suffering what the Browns originally defined as an injured oblique Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Chicago Bears.
“It’s nothing serious,” Heckert said. “It’s more of a pain thing, ribs or whatever, all that stuff, but it’s going to be a little while. But it’s not something you’re going to say it’s a three-week, a two-week, one week. It’s just going to be up in the air.”
However, it appears unlikely Johnson will be ready for Week 1. He would have started in place of Scott Fujita, who’s no longer allowed at the Browns’ headquarters until his three-game suspension for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal is resolved.
“Obviously [the injury] was more serious than [Johnson] anticipated,” starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “It shouldn’t be a season-ending injury, so we’ll get him back.”
Undrafted rookie L.J. Fort is expected to start in place of Johnson.
Offensive linemen John Greco and Oniel Cousins, strong safety Ray Ventrone, cornerback Dimitri Patterson, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, tight end Jordan Cameron and defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who’s on the physically unable to perform list, did not practice, either.
Tight end Benjamin Watson returned to practice after missing most of training camp and all four preseason games with what Heckert described as an injured quadriceps or hamstring. The Browns are expecting Watson and Cameron to be ready for Week 1, Shurmur said.
Tight end Evan Moore, whom the Browns cut Friday, reportedly signed with the Seattle Seahawks after they released another former Browns tight end, Kellen Winslow. … D’Qwell Jackson, offensive tackle Joe Thomas and kicker Phil Dawson were voted the Browns’ captains by their teammates, Shurmur said. A fourth captain will be appointed before each game.
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.