The Herald Bulletin

September 19, 2013

Richardson hits ground running in Indy

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The last time Matt Hasselbeck played with a running back from the University of Alabama, things turned out pretty well.

He and Shaun Alexander led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL, and Alexander was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 2005.

On Thursday, Hasselbeck was introduced to his newest teammate with the Indianapolis Colts — former Crimson Tide star rusher Trent Richardson.

"Hopefully, lightning strikes twice, right?" Hasselbeck said with a wide smile at his locker in the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "That'd be great."

Richardson's arrival in Indianapolis was the story of the day in the NFL, with reporters from ESPN and the league's own network among the throng descending on the team's practice facility.

Just two games into his second season, the 22-year-old was traded Wednesday by the Cleveland Browns to the Colts for a 2014 first-round draft pick.

It's an unprecedented blockbuster, with Richardson spending just 510 days on the Browns' roster after being selected with the third overall draft pick in 2012. It also gives the Colts two of that draft class' top three picks, pairing the running back with No. 1 overall selection Andrew Luck.

That combination already has Richardson excited.

"We're going to be here for awhile," he said. "We're not planning on going nowhere. We plan to be here, we plan to grow and we plan to win a lot of games."

That's the idea general manager Ryan Grigson had when he agreed to surrender a valuable building block for the running back's services.

Some critics have suggested a first-round pick was too high a price to pay for a running back in today's NFL. They argue the running game has been devalued in a pass-happy league, and good rushers are easy to uncover without a huge investment.

Richardson's 3.5 yards per carry average for his career has been another target for doubts. But the running back played with broken ribs for much of last season and still managed to compile 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

He also caught 51 passes — more than Indianapolis' running backs combined in 2012 — for 367 yards and another score.

Grigson said the decision to acquire Richardson "just felt right," and he likes the running back's fit with the Colts.

"He loves football," Grigson said. "That's always a prerequisite for (head coach) Chuck (Pagano) and myself and Mr. Irsay. We want people that love what they do. People that are good at what they do love what they do. In that respect, he's, I believe, very talented, naturally. He has the right body type, I feel, for his style as a runner, and his style is what fits this offense."

Richardson also could benefit from better skill-position talent around him in Indianapolis.

In addition to Luck, he'll be playing alongside wide receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton as well as tight end Coby Fleener. Richardson also has a veteran mentor behind him in Ahmad Bradshaw.

But the transaction that made him a Colt came as a surprise.

He learned about the trade on the radio after receiving a phone call from a friend. And he said some of his first thoughts were about his children's school and other family related matters.

As the trade began to sink in, however, Richardson became more comfortable with the move.

"It's starting to wear off, but it's still a shock," he said. "At the same time, I'm ready to open this new chapter in my life, especially here with the Colts. It's a great surrounding, great coaching staff and a great locker room."

It might be best that Richardson acclimates quickly.

Pagano didn't sound like a man willing to wait long to try out his new toy. He said the running back will be on the field as much as he can handle Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

"We didn't bring him in here to, I guess, be the water boy on Sunday," Pagano said. "He'll be ready to roll."

And that should provide the Colts' offense with another dimension. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been preaching balance and the virtues of a power running game.

Hasselbeck thrived in a West Coast system with a physical running back in Seattle, and he believes Richardson's addition can make Indianapolis' offense harder to defend.

It also comes at an opportune time with the Colts losing three offensive starters — running back Vick Ballard, offensive guard Donald Thomas and tight end Dwayne Allen — to season-ending injuries in the past week.

"We've lost some guys," Hasselbeck said. "But around the league, that's what happens. You just keep trying to improve as you're losing guys, keep trying to improve, and this is definitely a huge boost for us."