BEREA: Browns running back Trent Richardson revealed Monday that he played most of his rookie season with broken ribs and still can’t lie on his right side or his back because it’s too painful.
Richardson was hurt Oct. 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he and the Browns said he suffered a rib cartilage injury. With the season wrapped up, Richardson admitted two or three of his ribs were broken.
“Sometimes it’s hard to shift positions, twist, catch balls on my shoulder,” said Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. “It was real tough because it limits you. You can’t really cut like you want to or make the body movement like you want to. You can’t squeeze through the hole like you want to. You can’t really get full burst because your feet hitting the ground, it’s impacting all of that. It hurts a lot, especially when you get punched and you get hit in that side. Some guys on the ground want to do other stuff, want to come in and land on your ribs, which really hurts.”
The injury affects him off the field, too. He props himself up to sleep.
“For the first three or four weeks, I think I had people help me get dressed and help me in the shower and everything,” Richardson said.
Richardson pushed through the injury in nine games before sitting out the season finale at Pittsburgh on Sunday with a left high ankle sprain. When Richardson was in high school, he had screws inserted in both of his ankles to repair torn ligaments. This wasn’t as serious.
“I knew it wasn’t nothing like that,” said Richardson, who played 15 out of 16 games. “It didn’t feel the same at all.”
The 5-foot-9, 230-pound Richardson missed most of training camp and all four preseason games after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9. He said his knee didn’t give him problems during the season.
Richardson broke hall of famer Jim Brown’s franchise records for the most rushing yards (950) and rushing touchdowns (11) by a rookie, but he’s not complacent. He ranked 18th in the NFL in rushing yards and 97th in yards per carry (3.6).
“I wasn’t satisfied with my season at all,” Richardson said. “Looking back, there was some times I made something out of nothing. My offensive line picked me up, and they got better and better as the season went on. I think we got away from the run a little bit at the end of the season, but that’s due to being behind. At a time like this, you got to be hard on yourself when you watch film and make sure you criticize yourself so hard to where you won’t make those mistakes next year.”
Richardson is confident he’ll be healthy in time for organized team activities in the spring. He’s convinced he’ll show significant progress in his second NFL season.
“It’s going to be a big year,” Richardson said. “It’s going to be one of the biggest years for a running back that you’ve seen around here. And I know I’m talking big, but that’s just my goals and that’s my expectations. To be a player like I am and to have [three] kids, you’ve got to understand I just had my first son, and you got to realize I’m a man that came from nothing and always trying to make something out of nothing, so I think it’s going to be big for me next year.”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was impressed by what Richardson was able to do despite broken ribs.
“It’s unbelievable,” Weeden said. “Most guys would completely shut it down and say, ‘Oh, I’m getting paid.’ That’s not his thing. He’s a competitor. He knew how tough a player he was, how much he meant to this team. I applaud him. It’s amazing what he was able to do with such a beat-up body.”
Browns CEO Joe Banner refused to assess Weeden’s season, saying “I don’t think it’s the right time to start doing player evaluations.”
But Weeden left Berea feeling “very confident” about his future in Cleveland.
“I didn’t play as well as I needed to all year, but I didn’t expect to come in here Year One and light the thing on fire,” he said. “I’m confident moving forward with my ability I can do my part to make this team better. As a quarterback, that’s your main job, anyway. I think the guys around me have confidence in me. We’re such a young team, we blossom together. That’s the intriguing part.”
In 15 games, Weeden finished with a 72.6 passer rating, 29th on the NFL’s passing list. He threw for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns with 17 interceptions.
His starting job is not guaranteed for 2013, but Weeden seemed undaunted.
“I think about it, but I have the confidence in myself that I’m going to do whatever it takes to be the guy again,” he said. “There’s a lot of areas I definitely feel I can get better. But me and Pat [Shurmur] had a little talk and he’s exactly right — your biggest jump comes from your rookie year to your second year.”
Richardson said he believes Weeden is “the right guy.”
“Whatever they do, they do, they do,” Richardson said. “Right now he’s not Peyton Manning and we know that. But we do have to put Brandon in better situations. We got a lot to do with it. Brandon’s not the whole team. There’s 10 other guys out there.”
Weeden would not give details about the right shoulder injury that sidelined him from Sunday’s season finale in Pittsburgh. Asked if he could swing a golf club, Weeden said: “Not yet. I’m probably on the DL for the next seven or eight days.”
Will they return?
Browns outside linebacker Scott Fujita is among the players who will become free agents in March, but hasn’t decided whether he’s going to retire after 11 years in the NFL. Fujita played in only four games this season, his third with the Browns, after suffering a career-threatening neck injury.
Asked if he still wanted to play, Fujita said: “I just don’t want to rush into any decisions. I’ve got a lot of things I can sort through. Internally I have some ideas on it.”
Another free-agent-to-be is tight end Ben Watson, a nine-year veteran who has played three years with the Browns.
“I’d love to be back. I enjoy myself here tremendously,” Watson said. “It’s always tough leaving these guys after you’ve been together for so long. There are big guys crying; I’m one of them.”
Asked why he felt so strongly, he said: “I feel like work isn’t done. When I came here to Cleveland I wanted to help turn the thing around. We have some young players who are going to be really good. I think things will turn around here in the next year or two and I’d like to be part of that.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.