BEREA - There has finally been a Trent Richardson sighting.
The Browns rookie running back worked out on a stationary bike Saturday while his teammates got in a light practice eight days before the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. It's the first time Richardson has been seen on the field since he underwent a minor surgical procedure to remove a loose particle from his left knee Aug. 9.
Coach Pat Shurmur came close to saying that Richardson will be ready for the Eagles. At one time during his press conference it was difficult to determine if he said Richardson would play or he would play only is he practices.
"If he is ready he'll play," Shurmur said. "He's been doing great behind the scenes."
One person that's kept a close watch on Richardson's rehabilitation is general manager Tom Heckert. Heckert didn't go beyond anything that Shurmur said other than to agree that Richardson could be on target to play in the opener.
"I watch him every day outside of my window," Heckert said. "He looks really good right now."
Richardson began feeling soreness in the knee before the first preseason game. He had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee in early February after Alabama's win over LSU in the national championship game.
The original prognosis was that it was likely he'd be ready for the Eagles. There was some talk about Richardson perhaps getting time in the final preseason game.
Not playing in any of the preseason games could be considered a concern, but Heckert downplays that factor. He also doesn't put much credence into the thinking that missing considerable practice time is a problem.
"Now it's different. Practices now it's no hitting," Heckert said. "It's running and learning the plays. The one day of padded practice is different. We don't want people to get banged up.
"The more (he practices) the better, but I don't think it's a huge necessity. This kid is a little different cat now. He's ready to go pretty quick compared to some people I've been around. Shape-wise we don't have to worry about that at all."
There's been plenty of focus on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, but when Richardson is healthy he's expected to be the focal point of the offense. He should be the perfect complement to take pressure off Weeden.
"When he's healthy he needs to get out here and get some reps," backup quarterback Colt McCoy said. "It's been a few weeks since he's been out here, but I think expectations are high from me, the guys in the locker room and from the organization. He's a special player. He's going to be exciting to watch. I'm ready for him to get healthy."
Richardson's return can't happen soon enough. Montario Hardesty, who worked with the first team in Richardson's absence, has been inconsistent. He fumbled away fumbles in the second and third preseason games, which led to time on the field with the first team for Brandon Jackson.
Shurmur said the move to Jackson wasn't a demotion for Hardesty, who resumed practicing with the first team the next day.
The Browns kept four running backs on the roster. Chris Ogbonnaya joins Richardson, Hardesty and Jackson.
"Each year the roster is structured differently," Shurmur said. "We felt good about what those guys did. Those guys that play behind Trent are needed on special teams. They've done a good job there. They've got kind of a multiple role."