INDIANAPOLIS — To hear offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton tell it, the arrival of Trent Richardson in Indianapolis is like adding a Swiss Army Knife to his arsenal.
“There’s no ‘can’t-dos’ with this guy,” Hamilton said, adding he spent almost an entire night watching film of the running back’s pro and college tape after the trade. “He’s a great combination of power and speed. He has good field vision. He can play without the ball. He can catch the ball as well. I’m excited for our entire football team and the organization to be a part of a unit that has a chance to be special.”
Wednesday’s trade with the Cleveland Browns added the third overall pick of the 2012 draft to a list of young skill-position players that includes quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener.
Add in veteran wideouts Reggie Wayne and Darrius Heyward-Bey, and there’s a stable of talent perfectly capable of creating the “conflicts” within opposing defenses that Hamilton’s multi-formation scheme is designed to exploit.
“We got some really good young players that if they continue to work and grow together, we’ll do as good a job as we can as coaches to put them in position to make plays to see where we can go with this offense,” Hamilton said.
The question is how quickly will that process begin?
Richardson arrived in the Colts’ locker room on Thursday and had just two practices to get up to speed for today’s game at San Francisco. That would be a tall order against any opponent, much less the defending NFC champions.
But the running back’s past provided a bit of a boost. Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski was on the same staff as Hamilton with the 49ers in 2006, and many concepts in their schemes are the same. Richardson also ran in a similar system during his college days at Alabama.
The main learning curve is with new terminology.
“I’m a study freak,” Richardson said. “So I’m always going to be studying and trying to learn new stuff and trying to get my best ability to be in the right situation to put the team in a better situation to win.”
Richardson added he might stay up all night studying the playbook and that he wishes he had received it Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning just to get a head start.
“But I’m not that far behind, I’m not that far behind,” he said. “I know it’s a long way to go, but I’m going to work hard each day to make sure that I’m living up to the Colts’ standards.”
Hamilton and Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano weren’t specific with their immediate plans for Richardson. That should come as no surprise as it keeps San Francisco guessing.
But Pagano made it clear the running back won’t be strictly an observer against the 49ers, saying he wasn’t brought in to be a “water boy” and that he’ll be given “as much as he can handle” today.
How that works in a split with Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown remains to be seen. But there’s no doubt Richardson’s acquisition has the team excited.
“This guy’s is a rolling ball of butcher knives,” Pagano said. “Ahmad is the same way. He fits our system. He fits our scheme to a tee.”
Bradshaw’s presence as a mentor should be a boon to Richardson’s career. He rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie, playing through much of the season with broken ribs.
But Richardson has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in his 17-game career and had 105 rushing yards in two games with the Browns this season.
In the aftermath of the deal, word began to circulate that the new management in Cleveland doesn’t view the running back as an elite talent and didn’t see him as a core piece of the team’s future.
Whatever the case, the Browns made the trade just 510 days after drafting Richardson.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s another chapter in my life, and with that I’m going to have a chip on my shoulder. I am going to play football like I know how to play football. However it goes with the Browns, good luck to the Browns the rest of the season. But other than that, I got to be here playing football. I’m going to make my job the best job it is when it comes to winning.”
Richardson said he already felt a different vibe in Indianapolis’ locker room, and he’s excited about joining a team coming off a playoff appearance.
The Colts (1-1) made the trade with one eye on improving the team’s present and the other on setting the franchise up for long-term success.
“We’re trying to build something special,” Pagano said. “We know we’re trying to build a monster here, and we’re trying to build a program for sustained success for the long haul. So this gives you another opportunity to do that.”