BEREA — When rookie running back Trent Richardson had a screw inserted in a second ankle within his first two years of high school, doctors feared he wouldn’t be able to play football again.
So he wasn’t about to freak out over minor arthroscopic surgery that likely won’t cost him any time in the regular season.
“It’s just a minor setback for a major comeback, that’s how I look at it,” he said Wednesday after practicing. “I don’t look at it as being a downer. God put me in situations because he knows I can fight through it. He won’t put me in nothing I can’t bear.”
Richardson talked to reporters for the first time since surgery on his left knee Aug. 9 to clean up a bit of cartilage causing irritation. He was limited in practice but looked good during the 20 minutes open to the media. He took handoffs and practiced blitz pickup that will be valuable against the Eagles’ unrelenting pass rush.
“I’m day to day, but in my mind I’m ready,” he said. “I’m taking it one day at a time, one step at a time. I can’t wait to see what are going to be the results on Sunday.”
The season opens Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. If Richardson stays on course, he will make his NFL debut after missing the entire preseason.
“Aw, man. I couldn’t stand watching the preseason games and not being out there,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve touched the football. I just felt like, man, I’ve got to make sure I’m a part of this team, I’ve got to get on that field and contribute to this team. So just watching them, I was very antsy.
“I just had to take that time and realize that this might be one of the best things for me as far as resting and getting my leg right. This might be the best thing for my career here.”
Richardson said the surgery was unrelated to one in February to repair a torn meniscus. He said there’s been no swelling during his rehab, but he will trust coach Pat Shurmur to make the final decision on whether he plays against the Eagles.
Shurmur has repeatedly said he’s optimistic Richardson will play and added Wednesday he looks “great.”
Richardson looked good during training camp before missing practice Aug. 7. He was able to run full speed but felt something in the knee that developed over time. The decision was made to have surgery rather than reach a point “where I can’t run.” Today marks four weeks after the surgery.
“I feel a major difference in it,” he said. “I’ve got fresh legs, so I’m ready to go.
“It doesn’t worry me at all. I’m very confident in my knee. I can tell the big difference now and it’s not going to give me any trouble down the line.”
Richardson has been running and spending extra time in the pool to build up stamina, but he will be unable to simulate an NFL tackle until he’s hit with his first one.
“I’m very anxious to take a pop and give one,” he said. “In my head, it’s I’m going to get hit or give a hit. To me, if you’re a running back, you don’t want to get hit too many times. You want to give that first hit. I can’t wait.”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is looking forward to sticking the ball in Richardson’s midsection in front of an adoring Dawg Pound.
“Obviously he’s a huge addition,” Weeden said. “Being able to turn and hand him the ball is one of the best plays we have in our playbook. You have to respect him. Guys in the box have to account for him.
“He’s obviously an extremely gifted runner. I’m excited to see him pass block, I’m excited to see him catch balls out of the backfield, do all those different things. He’s a guy I’m excited to have back in this lineup and I know he’s chomping at the bit to start playing again.”
Eagles coach Andy Reid doesn’t think the lack of a preseason will have a big impact on Richardson.
“He’s a heckuva football player,” he said on a conference call. “That’s what we’re expecting. He was a great college player, he’s built for the NFL game. We know with him you have size and speed, toughness and quickness and you better wrap him up and be sure you tackle well with him.”
Richardson never lost faith, but the time off was difficult.
“It’s been a fight,” he said. “I haven’t played no football yet and people still talk to me and still have high hopes for me. I’ve just got to make believers and I’ve just got to make myself believe that I can play this game still and do what I can and play every down like it’s my last.
“It’s emotional as far as me being in the NFL. I always wanted to be a football player and I just can’t really wait.”
And what would be his dream day?
“The Browns win. That’s the only thing I can say,” he said.