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Browns RB Richardson ready to run away from poor NFL debut

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Associated Press
9/14/2012 4:18:56 PM
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BEREA, Ohio -- Buckle up those striped helmets, Bengals. Trent Richardson is headed your way.

One week after he lowered the boom on Kurt Coleman, flattening the Eagles safety and dislodging him from his helmet, Richardson is looking to do much more in his second NFL game.

Playing for the first time since undergoing left knee surgery last month, Richardson rushed for just 39 yards on 19 carries, hardly the kind of debut he expected or the Browns needed from the No. 3 overall pick in April's draft.

But although his first game as a pro didn't go well, Richardson believes his second one could be different.

"It's gonna all come together," the former Alabama star said. "I ain't worried about it, and we ain't worried about it."

Maybe the Bengals should be worried.

Richardson was bottled up last week by the Eagles, whose defensive front stuffed him at the line and never let the powerful back get loose for a big gain. His longest carry was the 9-yarder he capped by drilling Coleman, who came out of the encounter with a gash on his nose, cut upper lip and swollen bottom lip.

"I feel bad for the guy," Browns safety T.J. Ward said. "He'll see that forever."

But it was Richardson's lone highlight on a day when Cleveland's offence managed just 210 yards, didn't produce a touchdown and wasted a strong performance by the Browns' defence, which intercepted Michael Vick four times and forced a fumble in a 17-16 loss. Richardson also dropped a screen pass that could have gone for a score.

Richardson knew he blew it, and vowed never to repeat the mistake.

"I was kicking myself," he said. "But at the same time, I've gotta get up and wipe it off. I can't look backward, but I looked at that play probably two or three times and I just knew I had a touchdown or I knew I was gonna get positive yards on that play. That's not me. I got too happy. I smelled the end zone. If I could have just reached my hand out, I felt like I was touching it. So I got too excited. It won't happen again."

As tough as he was on himself, Richardson heard some outside criticism of his debut this week.

In assessing Richardson's first game, Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga took a few direct shots at Cleveland's young back.

"He can run you over, and you can miss a tackle," Maualuga told CBSsports.com. "At the same time, from what we've seen, he didn't do nothing spectacular. From running screens, missing passes, trying to find a hole when he's running the ball, he just didn't do anything spectacular. I'm pretty sure he's going to want to get after it once he plays us."

Count on it.

Richardson heard about Maualuga's comments, but refused to get caught up in any long-distance trash talking. He'll wait and deliver his in person.

"I've got nothing to say about him," he said. "But it sparks me up. We'll see."

Richardson wasn't able to evade tacklers and didn't have his usual explosiveness last week. He missed Cleveland's four preseason games after having his knee operated on for the second time since January and only returned to practice last week. However, during workouts this week Richardson looked more like the runner who gained 3,130 yards in college, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry.

On Friday, the Browns were forced to practice on indoor turf because of rain and Richardson showed exceptional quickness.

"I think it's fair to say he'll be better ready to play this week than last," said Browns coach Pat Shurmur, "I watch it every time he comes out here, he looks a little bit crisper and smoother. Running backs do need to get their legs underneath them. Him having missed practice at the outset probably hurt him a little bit. Now, he's had a chance to practice two weeks fully, I think he'll start to get back on track."

Richardson's uneven debut wouldn't have been as troublesome to Browns fans if rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden had played better. Weeden completed just 12 of 35 passes, threw four interceptions and finished with a 5.1 QB rating, about the same as his ERA during a brief minor league pitching career in the New York Yankees' system.

The Browns are counting on both to bounce back. Ward has seen enough of Richardson to think he'll rebound nicely.

"He played one game, and he probably came out of it like, 'Whew, I didn't re-injure it and I got through, and I made good cuts and I got hit pretty hard and I held up.' This week he's going to be even more comfortable and confident. It was his first game ever in the NFL. He had no preseason and people expected him to just come out and blow people's doors off. That's not going to happen.

"It would be great if it did, but realistically it takes time."

Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin has known Richardson for years. They both attended Escambia High in Pensacola, Fla., also the alma mater of Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Rubin believes Richardson is bound for greatness.

"He's going to be a real big deal," Rubin said. "It's going to be when, not if. He broke all of Emmitt's records and if he holds up, he's going to break a lot of records for us."

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NOTES: Shurmur said T Joe Thomas (knee) and LB Scott Fujita (knee) will both play Sunday. Thomas was limited in practice this week, and Fujita didn't dress for the opener because he didn't practice last week before the three-game suspension for his role in the Saints bounty scandal was temporarily lifted. ... TE Ben Watson (thigh) is listed as questionable. ... The Browns could alter their game plan after learning Bengals LB Thomas Howard is out for the season after tearing a knee ligament in practice.

Trent Richardson  (Photo: Diamond Images/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Diamond Images/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
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