Something odd has happened whenever I’ve taken a moment to think about the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Firstly, the fact that I’ve taken any moments at all to think about the Cleveland Browns is notable. But then what’s even better is that when I do that thinking, I experience an entirely foreign emotion as it relates to Browns football: excitement.
In numerous posts I’ve already slobbered all over the fantasy production potential of Jordan Cameron, who’s set to ascend Cleveland’s tight end depth chart and become Brandon Weeden’s primary target at the position. Then there’s Josh Gordon, who’s a really fast guy now in a Rob Chudzinski/Norv Turner offense which does great things for vertical options.
All of that is glorious. But even a year ago when the same pessimism which we’re so familiar with surrounded the Browns, there was still one source of trust: Trent Richardson. And that’s still true, though the more he’s injured in June and missing offseason activities, the more he tests that trust.
Don’t do us like this, Trent.
Richardson is slowly joining the collection of immensely talented fantasy options whose injury issues are concerning even if we’re still far removed from a time when they truly matter. Right now that esteemed group includes Rob Gronkowski, and most notably at running back, DeMarco Murray.
The third overall pick last spring missed most of the Browns’ OTA workouts two weeks ago with a strained muscle in his right shin, and he sat out last week too. That will likely continue, and we’ll now wait to see how much he participates in the team’s June minicamp.
Richardson knows what’s coming, and he knows what you’re thinking. Last week he fought the injury prone label, saying that the coaching staff is being cautious during important yet ultimately meaningless offseason work, and minimizing the pounding an already battered running back is taking.
Fair enough. But as ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi noted, the Browns have continued to make moves to secure depth at the position (they traded for Dion Lewis, re-signed Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson, and claimed Miguel Maysonet). In his rookie year, Richardson missed a significant chunk of training camp and all preseason games after knee surgery, and then throughout the season he was slowed by a rib injury, and later a high ankle sprain which finally forced him to miss a game (Week 17). That’s a whole lot of hurt.
But there’s still no need for long-term fear here, or at least not yet. Richardson’s offseason absence is due to a mild strain, the kind which requires rest. And the reason for his plodding throughout much of the second half of 2012 (five games with a yards per carry average of 3.5 or less following the Browns’ Week 10 bye) was that rib injury. Yet even with a major nagging problem which would rob most large backs of their ability to punish tacklers up the middle, T-Rich still scored six of his 11 rushing touchdowns over that stretch.
Seriously, the guy had broken ribs during 10 of the 15 games he appeared in during his rookie season, and he still finished with 1,317 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. If he misses time this season or is limited due to frequent strains, then be afraid. But breaks happen during a violent, and often brutal game. He’ll be fine.