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Trent Richardson is pain-free and looking forward to his second season

Apr 17, 2013 -- 6:27pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

Extra Points …

T-Rich all smiles: The Browns have a list of players who should benefit from the new offense being installed by Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner. At the top might be running back Trent Richardson.

Richardson is wearing a constant smile at Browns’ minicamp. It’s almost as if he can’t contain a good secret. As if he knows what’s in store.

“I can’t wait till this year,” Richardson said after his first practice under new coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner. “I think there’ll be big smiles on everybody’s faces after the games this year … not too many sad faces.”

The famed power running game featured by Turner, which has produced three NFL rushing champions, has Richardson pumped. But there’s more.

His two broken ribs finally have healed and his knee cartilage problem, which cost him all the preseason games of his first camp, is a distant memory.

“I feel great … 100 percent,” Richardson said. “I wish you can all be out there to watch the whole practice. I’m out there flying around. I finally feel skinny. I don’t have that big (protective) pad on me.

“It’s way easier to breathe. I can sleep at night. I feel better than ever.”

A roller coaster ride: Richardson’s rookie season was a series of ups and downs. His preseason was washed out by a surprise trip to Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, FL, to have a cartilage chip removed in a knee.

He made it back in time for the season opener. That’s when he made the head-on helmet hit of Eagles safety Kurt Coleman that rocked Cleveland Browns Stadium and reverberated through the offseason.

The hit blasted Coleman’s helmet off and made Richardson the poster boy of a rule change. This year, using the crown of the helmet like that will result in a penalty and a fine.

“Everybody kept calling me and asking me about it,” Richardson said. “They’re saying that’s the T-Rich rule or the Trent Richardson rule. I just laughed about it at first. I started feeling bad about it for the backs because I feel it’s kind of my fault.

He said the new rule won’t change his style.

“I just don’t think about it. If I do, it may just slow me down. I understand they’re trying to make the NFL safe as they can for the players in the long run and for the present. I’m not saying I’m gonna switch up my running style, but I’m gonna make sure I do whatever it takes to not hurt nobody else or not to injure myself.”

Richardson had a 100-yard game in his second NFL game. Then it seemed as if he hit a wall. In fact, he did, in a Game 6 collision that caused two broken ribs. He played through the injury and did not reveal the extent until after the season.

“It was tough, man,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t say. I don’t know if I can really say it now. There’d be times I really couldn’t get going until like Friday, and I had to be out there Sunday.”

Richardson had two more 100-yard games and missed the last game with an ankle injury. He wound up with Browns rookie records with 11 rushing touchdowns and 950 yards. The records were for a 16-game season.

But his numbers through 12 games – the length of the NFL season when Jim Brown was a rookie in 1957 – were actually not off those of the Hall of Fame legend. Brown had 942 yards and nine touchdowns; Richardson had 833 and seven. The significant difference was in their average yards per rush – 4.6 for Brown, 3.6 for Richardson. The broken ribs had to account for some of that difference.

Running out of the shadows: Brown’s pre-draft comments about Richardson – “He’s ordinary” – motivated Richardson more than hounded him. They had a bonding in the middle of the season, when Brown appreciated Richardson’s selflessness play with broken ribs.

Prior to Brown, the shadow that engulfed Richardson was cast by Emmitt Smith, who grew up in the same hometown of Pensacola and preceded him at Escambia High School. Smith, of course, is the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards.

And now that Richardson has won over Brown, the specter of Smith is the new motivator for Richardson.

When Turner got on board as Chudzinski’s coordinator and met Richardson for the first time, he slyly said to him, “You know, I had Emmitt Smith (at Dallas).”

“For me, it’s a lot of big shoes I have to fill once again,” Richardson said with a smile that turned into a big laugh.

“I’ll always have some connection with him no matter what. That’s an honor. Until I get to where he’s at now, it’s gonna be like that.”

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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