Most of the reporters in the Colts’ locker room Thursday had converged on the running back’s locker to hear his thoughts about the anniversary, and perhaps more specifically, where he is now.
He’s aware of the widespread scrutiny of the trade from the Colts’ side — Richardson sticks to his story that last season was a blur, he couldn’t run hard because he was “confused” about the new playbook and the immediate adjustment expected from being dealt.
Critics will say Richardson has a long way to go, still, to live up to that trade. And he knows that. Optimists point to his 79 yards rushing on 21 carries in Monday’s 30-27 home loss to Philadelphia and suggest he’s turned a corner. He does lead the team with 99 yards rushing on 27 carries, a 3.7-yard average that is a marked improvement from 2.9 per carry last season after joining his new team.
But Richardson fumbled twice against the Eagles. One was lost and led to Philadelphia driving in to score a tying touchdown.
“Last week, people said that’s one of my best games, but I fumbled twice,” Richardson said. “Me running hard, that’s me, and people didn’t get to see that last year because, just to say it, I was confused. I didn’t know.
“Now I do know, and I do know what I need to do, I do know where my eyes need to be, I do know what my quarterback’s talking about, I do know what my offensive line’s talking about, and I can study the other team now.”
The Colts are steadfast in their belief that Richardson will be the player they envisioned when acquiring the No. 3 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft. Skeptics snicker at the team’s confidence — the popular suggestion is that veteran Ahmad Bradshaw should be starting. Bradshaw has run for 85 yards on 16 carries, a 5.3-yard average. He’s also caught 10 passes for 96 yards and two TDs while Richardson has four receptions for 47 yards.
RIchardson and Bradshaw consider it a situation where the team has two No. 1 running backs. But until Richardson puts up bigger numbers, someone will always be quick to say that the Colts got the lesser end of the deal.
“Well, he had one of his better games as a Colt on Monday night,” said offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, “and we’re looking to build on that success. Success is a great motivator. I think he’s in a good place and we’re excited about Trent continuing to develop and grow and we want him to have continued success moving forward.”
But it’s also understood he can’t fumble.
“There’s no doubt about the fact that Trent is a tough, physical, grind-em-out runner, and we trust that he understands how important it is to protect the football,” Hamilton said. “The one thing that you’ve got to love about Trent is he’s going to fight for the extra yard, two yards, extra two to three inches. He’s just got to understand that guys are going to rip and tug at the ball, and he’ll do a great job of securing the ball moving forward.”
Richardson vows to keep plugging, doing the extra work necessary to make a difference and show the Colts his trade wasn’t a mistake.
“Me and Ahmad, we were running sprints after practice, we just ran 14 of them,” he said. “That’s one thing we say we’re going to do, we’re going to be in better shape. We’re not going to get fatigued. We’re going to do everything we can to put the team on our back.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.