Injuries happen in the NFL — that’s just a simple fact of the game. That is doubly true for running backs, as they put their bodies through a particularly brutal strain.
That is also why there should be a legitimate concern about Browns RB Trent Richardson.
Richardson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Aug. 9, a procedure that has kept him out of training camp and the preseason. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is “very optimistic” that Richardson will play in the regular-season opener on Sept. 9, but the third overall pick almost certainly will see a limited workload.
Richardson’s health has been an exercise in typical injury rhetoric. The Browns have stressed that the procedure was routine, a simple surgery to clean out a previously injured knee (he had a similar procedure on the same knee on Feb. 3 to repair a torn meniscus). But as many people like to point out, when it comes to surgery, it can be anything but “routine.”
The team isn’t taking any chances with Richardson’s knee, which is the right move. But this situation does not come without its concerns, either. Originally, Richardson was not only expected back for the season opener at full strength, but he was to be at practice long before anyone started wondering what happened to be taking so long. But here we are, entering the last week of the preseason, and Richardson is nowhere to be found.
A man left alone with his thoughts can be a dangerous thing, and the longer Richardson sits out, the longer one wonders what the Browns know and just how serious the former Alabama star's injury might be.
But let’s pump the brakes on the doomsday scenarios for a minute. There is also the very real possibility that Richardson will be fine. After a week of limited carries, he could become the powerful workhorse back the Browns were expecting when they moved up one spot in April’s draft in order to select him.
Even if Richardson comes back in time for Week One, there always will be a tinge of worry as he gets his feet wet in the NFL. The Browns can say anything they want about remaining cautious, but one has to wonder when that knee will cause more problems for a player who is expected to run roughshod over the league.
That’s just the life of a running back in the NFL, though. Careers are often cut short by injuries; after all, what is more important to a running back than the ability to use his legs without the fear of one buckling?
Consider, also, the rehabilitation of major knee injuries to RBs Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. While these are on a different, much more serious scale than Richardson, it’s important to see how both backs have recovered.
Peterson has been described as having an amazing recovery from his reconstructive surgery, though he has just started facing contact in practice. Charles has managed to play in the preseason without any setbacks, which is certainly a great sign for the Chiefs.
But it’s hard to say both teams won’t be wincing when Peterson and Charles handle the ball. The same goes for Richardson. No matter the severity, a knee injury is a tricky thing and each one has a completely different recovery period that, for the most part, is out of a player’s control.
If Richardson was completely healthy, he likely would have started practicing without having to rest any further. The Browns are nervous, and rightfully so, because their good draft fortunes — and the direction of the franchise — are resting on that surgically repaired knee.