Trent Richardson respects and admires Ray Lewis, but the Browns’ rookie running back won’t hesitate to lower his shoulder and try to steamroll the legendary linebacker before a national TV audience in prime time.
Richardson will get a chance to take his best shot when the Browns (0-3) face the Baltimore Ravens (2-1) on the road at 8:20 tonight. Richardson and the Browns’ offense are aiming for redemption after relapsing Sunday in a 24-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The 5-foot-9, 230-pound Richardson has been looking forward to the challenge of competing with the Ravens for quite some time. In February at the NFL Scouting Combine, Richardson vowed not to submit to “Uncle Ray,” and he didn’t change his tune on the eve of their first encounter.
“Why would you stand down for any man?” asked Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft. “Not to be cocky or talking mess, but if you’re an athlete or you’re a competitor, why would you stand down for anybody? I know Ray Lewis going to come at me, and I’m going to come right back at him.”
The Browns need Richardson to roll if they want to stun the Ravens, who have won 20 of their past 21 home games, including 12 in a row. In a 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, Richardson had 19 carries for 109 yards (5.7 average) and a touchdown to go along with four catches for 36 yards and another touchdown. But he regressed Sunday, gaining just 27 yards on 12 carries (2.3 average) and catching six passes for 24 yards.
“We have to get Trent to the second level and get him past the line of scrimmage and not make him battle as much at the line of scrimmage,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “Obviously [we need to] move it past the defensive line and onto the linebackers and second level because that’s where he can end up doing most of his damage.”
For the running game to flourish, the offensive line must create movement in the trenches, Richardson said. Still, he remains confident in his blockers.
“I got their back all the way, and I know they’ve got mine,” Richardson said. “So the O-line, they’re trying, they’re doing all they can to get better every week. I’ll play with these guys. I’ll go into battle with these guys any day and every day. Anybody wants to talk bad about them, that’s their fault and they have to deal with the repercussions and consequences.
“Sometimes I might get upset at myself because I feel I could’ve made somebody miss or I feel like I could’ve made somebody get run over or something like that. Sometimes I just get down on myself more than anything. I don’t get down on [my teammates] because I don’t feel like it’s their fault. It’s my fault.”
Richardson believes the entire team learned an important lesson after falling to the Bills — don’t overlook anyone.
“Everybody was game planning, and I think we looked too far ahead last week,” Richardson said. “I think we were trying to get more prepared for [the Ravens] more than anything.”
The Browns certainly cannot afford to duplicate the mistake. Although the Ravens will play tonight for the fourth time in 18 days, they are heavily favored for legitimate reasons. The Ravens have prevailed over the Browns in their past eight meetings, and the Browns and the New Orleans Saints are the only winless teams in the NFL this season.
“People say that we don’t have a chance,” Richardson said. “But I know we’ve got a chance.”
Responding well to the environment at M&T Bank Stadium will be vital for the young Browns. Coach Pat Shurmur said he doesn’t believe his players were “flat” when they fell behind the Bills 14-0 in the first quarter. Regardless of Shurmur’s spin, the Browns will probably be buried if they fail to match the intensity of Lewis and Co. from the start.
“Some of those types of things that you’re describing are on-the-job training,” Childress said. “I mean, you don’t get it until one of those guys gets right in your grill, and then you get it.”
Richardson is convinced he’s ready for the crash course.
“My mindset has always been that I don’t feel like no team can just stop me,” Richardson said. “My mindset has always been that I could set my goals high and prepare for this game, and I’ve watched a lot of film on them because they are a very explosive defense, one of the sharpest defenses I’ve ever seen. I gotta just be mentally prepared for them. Physically you know they are going to be powerful, and so coming from where I came from, I know what I’m going to have to deal with.”
A defense led by Lewis and free safety Ed Reed, both of whom are virtual locks to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, can be difficult to handle for anyone, let alone a rookie. Richardson, though, embraces the test.
“Just to be on the same field as them and to try to make a name [for myself against] these guys who are going to be in the hall of fame [motivates me],” Richardson said. “Baltimore’s whole defense is full of legends. So I know what type of heat they’re going to bring.”
Richardson promises to fire back.
The Browns ruled out starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi for tonight’s game. Massaquoi injured his left hamstring Sunday with about nine minutes left in the third quarter and did not practice this week.
With Massaquoi out, receiver Jordan Norwood is expected to be active for the first time this season. Massaquoi has been rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden’s most reliable target this season. He has nine catches for a team-high 145 yards.
The Browns also ruled out tight end Alex Smith (concussion) and rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique).
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.