BEREA — Rookie running back Trent Richardson took snaps with the first-team offense Monday as the Browns held a 75-minute morning practice. It marked his first on-field action since undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery on Aug. 9.
Richardson’s return prompted Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur to say he will start “if he’s ready to go” in the regular season opener Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“All along, I’ve been hopeful that he’d be there,” Shurmur said. “Now, this was his first day back at practice, so we just did what we could do, but I thought Trent looked healthy running around. I knew he’d be out here today, and he did a good job.”
The third overall pick in the NFL Draft wore a protective sleeve on his knee while sharing reps with Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson. Richardson was not made available to the media, but his backups gave him high grades for the day.
“I know Trent felt good to be out there with us today,” said Hardesty, who is listed as a second-teamer on the depth chart. “I was glad to see him, too, because he makes our run game that much better.
“With him, Brandon and (fourth-stringer Chris) Ogbonnaya, we’ve got a lot of guys that can do good things for us in the backfield.”
While Shurmur said Richardson will get the bulk of the carries if he plays, he has been less than forthcoming on how the other backs will be used — even to the players themselves.
“Honestly, you gotta ask Coach Shurmur because I don’t know anything,” said Jackson, whose 4.0-yard average per carry led the Browns in the preseason. “Trent will be the starter, but I’m not sure beyond that.”
As the team’s best pass catcher out of the backfield, Jackson figures to see many snaps on third down. He owns the third-longest reception streak in the NFL among running backs at 21 games, but missed all of last season after tearing ligaments in his right big toe.
Jackson has not played in a game that counted since helping the Packers win Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011.
“I’ll have a lot of emotions and a lot of hype on Sunday, that’s for sure,” he admitted. “Knowing I haven’t been on the field since Green Bay, it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I can’t wait for the game.”
Browns cornerback Joe Haden remains mum about his potential four-game NFL suspension, reportedly for testing positive for the drug Adderall in the offseason.
“I have no idea,” Haden said softly. “I’m not allowed to say anything about the situation.”
Shurmur echoed those words, but admitted the uncertainty could affect his ballclub.
“At this point, we’re moving forward with him,” the coach said. “We’ll just see what happens on game day.”
If Haden is suspended for violating terms of the league’s controlled substance policy, either nickelback Dimitri Patterson or Buster Skrine will assume his starting spot on the left side.
Patterson took part in his first practice since injuring his right ankle and right knee in Cleveland’s preseason opener. Teammate Ray “Bubba” Ventrone rolled onto his leg on Aug. 10 at Ford Field, forcing him to miss three-plus weeks of training camp.
“Dimitri looked good and was running around fast today,” Shurmur said. “You haven’t been aware of it, but they’ve been doing lots of work behind the scenes.”
- Tight end Benjamin Watson (quadriceps) and Patterson both declared they would be in uniform against the Eagles, greatly helping the Browns’ depth at both positions. Though Watson sat out the entire preseason, the eight-year veteran said he would have no problem jumping in against one of the NFL’s better teams. “You can’t make up for lost time, but that’s why we’re professionals,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there, but I’ll be ready.”
- Ventrone (right hamstring) took part in his first practice since Aug. 19, while fellow safety Eric Hagg (stomach flu) was sent home as a precaution.
- Linebacker James-Michael Johnson (oblique), tight end Jordan Cameron, tackle Oniel Cousins (right leg), center John Greco, and running back Ogbonnaya (left leg) were limited to riding stationary bikes. Shurmur said he was hopeful Cameron would play against Philadelphia.
- The Browns added defensive end Brian Sanford to their practice squad, while linebacker Solomon Elimimian was released. Sanford survived Cleveland’s initial roster cutdown to 53 players before being waived Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder has played in five games for the Browns over the last two seasons, making five tackles.
- Wide receiver Josh Gordon (86 to 13), linebackers L.J. Fort (40 to 58) and Craig Robertson (47 to 53), defensive tackle Billy Winn (79 to 90), and practice squad center Garth Gerhart (53 to 61) have changed their jersey numbers. Gordon, who wore 12 in high school and college, even has the number tattooed on his back. Unfortunately for him, it belongs to quarterback Colt McCoy in Cleveland. “I couldn’t see myself wearing 86, so I had to change it,” Gordon said.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.