Injuries continue to slow Browns’ Richardson

CLEVELAND – They’re the two words professional athletes fear the most – “injury prone.”

Once that sets in, the next step is journeyman status, followed inevitably by being known as an ex-player.

No one has thrown the injury prone label on Browns second-year running back Trent Richardson, but there are legitimate concerns about his ability to remain healthy. He had two knee surgeries last season before playing in his first game. He played in 15 of the 16 regular-season games but had two cracked ribs in 14 of them.

Richardson recently strained a muscle in his lower right leg during an organized team activity (OTA) practice. He’s missed every practice since and might be forced to sit out next week’s three-day minicamp that wraps up offseason work.

The waiting might be tougher for Richardson to endure than finding space in the LSU defense.

“It’s hard to watch,” Richardson said. “I tell coach I want to be out there every day and put my helmet on or something. We laugh about it, but he knows and I know he means good by sitting out.”

The Browns had high expectations for Richardson after selecting him third overall in the 2012 draft. The rib injury proved to be a hurdle that kept him from reaching his potential. He finished the season with 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on 267 carries.

It wasn’t until late in the season when he revealed the full extent of the rib injury. Sleeping was a difficult chore, which meant taking on 250-pound linebackers must have been a form of torture.

Richardson has maintained a positive attitude. The mention of being injury prone doesn’t sit well with him.

“I don’t really call it injury prone,” he said. “The only thing that will keep me from achieving my goals is me. That’s keeping my head clear outside of football. Doing the right things all the time. Working hard all the time.

“I don’t think it’s just the injuries, but that’s something to think about in the long run and the short run.”

The injury factor became a topic of conversation Wednesday when the Browns announced the return of Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown in an advisory capacity. At a press conference, Brown said the only thing holding back Richardson from becoming a great back is his health.

“When Jim Brown says something, you always have to put it in your head and say, ‘This man did it. He knows what he’s talking about,’ ” Richardson said. “I might as well follow along and do what he tells me to do.”

Browns first-year coach Rob Chudzinski isn’t worried about Richardson’s health at this time. That might change when the calendar turns to August and the intensity of practices picks up a few notches.

“I’m not concerned,” Chudzinski said. “I know he’s healthy from all the things from last season. This is something we’re working through. He’ll be fine.”

Richardson is missing valuable time learning the offensive system being installed by Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner. He smiles when thinking about the number of carries he’ll likely receive.

“Norv talks to me about getting the ball a lot and making sure I’m the bell cow,” Richardson said. “I told him I’m going to be in the best shape I can be to make sure I can put the team on my back. It’s not just about me. It’s more about the team because without the team, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Richardson actually downplays the missed practice time.

“It’s no setback really because I’m still learning everything,” he said. “I’ve been at every meeting and I know everything. I’m still learning every day.”