Injury Concerns Once Again Tackle Richardson For A Loss
By Steven King
The plot thickens concerning the health of Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson, but it may be more like quicksand.
The Browns announced Tuesday morning as their mandatory, full-squad mini-camp began that Richardson, who is battling a strain in the muscles near his shin, will likely be shut down until August.
It was already no secret that Richardson would sit out this week’s minicamp after injuring himself in an OTA workout two weeks ago. But he will probably miss anywhere from a couple days to about a week of training camp, which will begin at a yet-to-be announced date in late July.
The move is precautionary and is being done to protect Richardson from possibly incurring a stress fracture. Cleveland might not have done this had it not been for Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware breaking his leg with a similar injury during the NCAA Tournament. This is the third injury that Richardson has suffered in less than a year after being selected No, 3 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. He missed almost all of training camp and the entire preseason with a knee problem, but did manage to start the regular season on time. Then, in the seventh game of the year at Indianapolis, he broke two ribs but continued to play until sustaining a season-ending ankle injury at Denver in Week 16.
Richardson finished the season by rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was second on the Browns with 51 receptions. That’s not bad. The team and its fans wondered just how much better Richardson might be able to play in 2013 if he were fully healthy.
While this latest problem may be nothing – it could be that this is indeed just a precautionary measure by Cleveland to make sure that Richardson has a clean bill of health and is ready to go when the regular season opens – it could also be something. Three serious health issues in a span of 11 months do more than raise an eyebrow – at least they should for someone in whom the Browns have invested so much time and money. They are counting on him to be not just a runner, but also a safety-valve receiver and a blocker for the downfield passing game offensive coordinator Norv Turner is installing.
In fact, Richardson and WR Josh Gordon are, by far, the two most dangerous and explosive skill-position players on the Cleveland offense. Just as the Browns can’t afford to be without Gordon, they also can’t function properly with Richardson standing on the sideline in street clothes. The team simply isn’t good enough – or deep enough -- to withstand those kinds of losses.
Gordon has no injury concerns and could end up having a big second season in 2013. But it’s getting so that Richardson’s injury situation is overshadowing his contributions. It’s certainly not what the Browns had in mind when they traded up a spot to draft Richardson last offseason.
Obviously, only time will tell how all this will work out. But in the very least, Richardson is not helping himself or the club by sitting out so much time in the spring and missing the chance to learn the basics – and the little nuances – of this new offense. The situation will only become worse when training camp starts. Each day and every learning opportunity lost then will count much more than it does now. With so much losing in recent years, Cleveland needs to get off to a fast start this year to build confidence. But that can’t happen without a full complement of key players. And the Browns are far from having a full complement of players if No. 33 is not in uniform.
Also, think about this: This is QB Brandon Weeden’s year to prove himself. But can Weeden really make it without a healthy and productive Richardson in the backfield?
Probably not, which means these next six or seven weeks are crucial for the Browns. While nothing much will be going on throughout the NFL as players and coaches take their vacations to recharge their batteries and get ready for the season, a lot will be going on in Cleveland with Richardson using the time off to try to fully recuperate. His team is depending greatly on that, and on him.