Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

September 20, 2013

NFL: Hoots, hollers greet new Colts running back

Alabama alum traded to Indy for first-round draft pick.

INDIANAPOLIS — Trent Richardson’s new NFL home has all the features he’s wanted.

The Colts expect their newest player to become a workhorse running back, grow alongside a young franchise quarterback and carry them into the playoffs for years to come. It’s a big change from Cleveland’s perpetual rebuilding project.

One day after the Browns called Richardson to say he’d been dealt for a first-round draft pick in 2014, Richardson arrived to a locker room that had his new teammates hooting and hollering, a horde of reporters hanging on every word and the familiar sight of Browns fan Condoleeza Rice watching practice.

“It’s another chapter in my life and with that I’m going to have a chip on my shoulder,” Richardson said. “I am going to play football like I know how to play football. However it goes with the Browns, good luck to the Browns the rest of the season, but other than that, I’ve got to be here playing football.”

The Colts (1-1) gave up a draft pick they hope will come at the end of the first round next year to obtain the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Alabama alum. Cleveland gave away three picks to move up one spot and take Richardson just last year. He never quite fit the newest offensive system in Cleveland.

Indy now has a quarterback, Andrew Luck, and a running back, Richardson, who were both Heisman Trophy finalists less than 24 months ago and were ranked by most scouting departments as the best players at their positions coming out of college.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has somehow corralled five of the top 100 players drafted in 2012 — all of them on offense. Along with Luck and Richardson, the No. 1 and No. 3 overall selections, Indy also has tight ends Coby Fleener, a second-round choice, and Dwayne Allen and receiver T.Y. Hilton, third-round picks. Fleener, who turns 25 on Friday, is the oldest of the bunch.

For Grigson, the deal was too good to pass up. He and Cleveland CEO Joe Banner, who worked together previously in Philadelphia, started talking early this week and it didn’t take long for Grigson to work something out. It’s his 16th trade since coming to Indy in 2012.

“You always want to surround a great player like Andrew with weapons, and we had a need at running back,” Grigson said. “So we went out and got one.”

They found a back that the Browns (0-2) gave up on after playing just 17 career games.

Richardson rushed for 950 yards as a rookie despite playing most of the season with two broken ribs.

This year, under new management, Richardson had only 31 carries for 105 yards. The back Hall of Famer Jim Brown once described as “ordinary” never demonstrated the explosiveness Cleveland new coaching staff wanted.

Grigson and the Colts, who are transforming last year’s vertical game into a more balanced offense that features power running, didn’t have the same scouting report. Coach Chuck Pagano referred to Richardson as a “rolling ball of butcher knives” and called him a perfect fit in this system.

“All I know is, I got a couple texts from some players I used to coach and it was ‘Wow, congrats and thank you,’” said Pagano, the Baltimore Ravens’ former defensive coordinator.

“And you know why they said ‘thank you,’ because he’s out of the division. That tells you right there. He’s a game-wrecker.”

Over the past week, starting running back Vick Ballard (right knee), left guard Donald Thomas (quad) and Allen (hip) all landed on season-ending injured reserve. The trade overshadowed those losses and created an instant buzz around town and inside Indy’s locker room.

Richardson will now get a crash course on the Colts’ offense and is likely to play this weekend at San Francisco.

It’s still unclear whether Richardson will start over Ahmad Bradshaw, who made his first start with Indy in Sunday’s 24-20 loss to Miami. But one thing is clear: Richardson is considered one of Indy’s cornerstones.

“We did not bring him in here to, I guess, be the water boy on Sunday,” Pagano said. “He’ll be ready to roll.”

Richardson couldn’t have asked for more.

After trading his No. 33 jersey in for a white No. 34 practice jersey, he said the shock of being traded was starting to wear off and he promised to spend these next few nights pulling all-nighters with Indy’s playbook and getting comfortable.

All he has to do now is fit into his new home.

“People can’t just stack nine in the box no more,” he said. “You think you’re going to stack nine in the box, Andrew’s got an arm for you and you got Reggie Wayne and T.Y. out there, and you got our tight ends that are going to work, too.”

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