Trent Richardson was drafted with the third overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 NFL Draft and is expected to be one of the biggest sports stars northeast Ohio has witnessed since LeBron James headed for South Beach two years ago.
Those expectations may have slightly diminished after an offseason knee surgery slowed Richardson down and forced him to miss every preseason game Cleveland competed in in August.
However, Richardson returned to practice for the Browns on Monday afternoon and Cleveland again has renewed hope that the former Alabama Heisman hopeful can bring some of that magic to the shores of Lake Erie.
According to head coach Pat Shurmur (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer), "Trent, as you know, was out here today. He looked good. I knew he'd be out here today and he did a good job."
Richardson's status for the Browns season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday still remains cloudy to say the least. In regards to Richardson's availability, Shurmur said ""I think each person is different when they come back from injury and you handle each injury separately. We'll see as we go. All along I've been hopeful that he'd be there."
If Richardson does miss the Browns season opener, Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson are expected to carry the load for Cleveland. In fact, Hardesty and Jackson may still become the workhorses for the Browns even if Richardson is in uniform due to their familiarity with the playbook and their established roles within the offense.
The Browns need Richardson to be the dynamic runner that they drafted in April if the team hopes to have any success during the 2012 season. With an offense that has the potential to have five rookies playing at any given time, a successful rushing attack is key to taking some of the pressure of quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receivers.
Browns team president Mike Holmgren had this to say about Richardson's injury situation earlier in the week: ""I think the number of touches, if he is able to play in the first ball game. If he's able to play, he hasn't practiced for a while, and I've been in this situation before with players. When it's close and you're really kind of counting on them. If he hadn't had the surgery, if he'd been able to have a full training camp, yes, he was going to touch the ball a fair amount. That's the plan I believe. I don't know what Pat said, but I would think so. Now, you have to be careful because he hasn't practiced. The worst thing we could do is rush him before he is ready. So, that's a medical, training decision. They'll help us with that one."
Cleveland is expected to make a decision on Richardson's Week 1 availability by Friday, but could wait up until game time on Sunday to really give any sort of solid indication.