The No. 3 pick out of Alabama switched from No. 3 to 33 because the NFL forbids single digits for running backs. He blamed a couple of early handoff problems on the changes, but was glad to be in Cleveland’s brown jersey Friday for the opening of rookie minicamp.
“It felt good and it’s starting to hit me now that I’ve made it to the NFL,” he said after the morning practice of two-a-days. “To put on another number and another jersey, because I’ve been wearing crimson for the last three years and that’s what I’m used to, so now I’ve made it. Now I have to take advantage of the NFL experience.”
Richardson bobbled a couple of handoffs to start the morning.
“You just have to get used to the double numbers and your jersey is kind of slippery,” he said. “I didn’t have double numbers or a slick jersey (at Alabama) and since it’s new you have to get used to it. I knew it was going to be a rough start but as it went on everything smoothed out.”
The Browns are expecting a lot out of Richardson. They traded three picks to move up one spot to guarantee they’d get him, and plan on him taking some pressure off of rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“Mentally, I do not listen to what anybody else says, but me, I am going to hold my expectations high, real high, very high,” Richardson said. “The expectations that they have for me now, I don’t think it is high enough for me and I am going to go higher and I am going to go to the extreme.
“You never set your expectations at a limit and that is just me being a man and being a competitor and an athlete. Being the third pick in the first round, having all of the success at Alabama, for me from this point on I am not going to speak much about what I did at Alabama because that is old. I am trying to make a name for myself in the NFL now.”
Richardson had minor knee surgery following Alabama’s national championship. He wore a sleeve on the left knee Friday, and the team limited his repetitions.
“Most definitely I can go 100 percent,” he said. “I haven’t slowed down yet. When people talk about the minor knee scope I had, I say, ‘What knee? What are you talking about?’ When it comes down to it, I am ready to go.”
The players weren’t in pads, so it was difficult to gauge Richardson’s full skill set, but he showed quick feet in the hole, a powerful frame and the ability to catch.
“We taught a lot of plays and he executed them well,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He executed his ballhandling well. We threw him the ball and he caught it. All pretty good stuff.”
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor will require surgery after tearing a pectoral muscle while bench pressing Thursday at the team facility. He could miss the season.
President Mike Holmgren, appearing at a luncheon in Akron, was asked if the players are lifting too hard at this point in the year. He said he had a similar discussion with strength and condition coach Kent Johnston.
“He said he was doing fine,” Holmgren said. “He was not lifting too much weight for Phil. He had already done a couple reps. Things were going good and then all of a sudden, boom!
“I think we’re doing everything right. Phil was doing everything right. He’s been working out so well. It was one of those things that happened that no one could predict.”
Next in line
Rookies John Hughes (third round) and Billy Winn (sixth) are the mostly likely candidates to take Taylor’s spot in the starting lineup alongside tackle Ahtyba Rubin. Hughes (6-foot-3, 320 pounds) is bigger, and Winn (6-4, 295) has some experience at end.
“I’m confident, but it’s coach’s decision,” said Hughes, who’s from the Columbus area and went to the University of Cincinnati. “I’m going to come out here and be the best I can no matter what happened. Phil Taylor is a great player and I wish the best for him. I hope he can get through this injury.”
Hughes and Winn rotated between tackle spots — one lined up between the center and guard (the 1-technique), the other between the opposite guard and tackle (3-technique).
“The task for all of us out here is to play fast and to compete against each other because at the end of the day we all want to earn a spot on the roster and make it to training camp,” Winn said. “I would do anything and everything that they needed me to.”
Winn wasn’t overwhelmed by his first day in the NFL.
“The first day is going to be basic, fundamentals, individual drills,” he said. “It’s like freshman year all over again. You go out there, you learn the basics, you learn how things get done, but that was expected.”
One difference is the cafeteria at Browns headquarters. The Boise State product isn’t in Idaho anymore.
“The food’s a lot better,” he said. “We have potatoes in there, but it wasn’t all potato dishes.”
Fourth-round pick Travis Benjamin was the only receiver drafted by the Browns, which raised eyebrows among fans and analysts who believe the team is desperate for an upgrade. He showed his elite speed Friday, but dropped two passes in the morning session.
“Let’s not go there yet,” Shurmur said when asked about the drops, which plagued the Browns last season. “He’s got good hands and he will show it. And he’s fast-fast.”
Benjamin bounced back in the afternoon to make a couple of difficult catches. He’s listed at 5-10 and 175 pounds and has some of the skinniest legs you’ll find on an NFL player.
The Browns continue to reach deals with their draft picks, although they haven’t announced any. According to assorted reports, second-round offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, Winn and seventh-round cornerback Trevin Wade have agreed to terms on four-year deals.
The new collective bargaining agreement, which sets a rookie salary cap for each team, has all but eliminated the possibility of holdouts.
• Shurmur said the Browns haven’t discussed signing veteran free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress, who said on a radio show this week the Browns are one of the teams he’s interested in. The Browns may look to add a veteran before training camp.
“We haven’t talked about Plax right now,” Shurmur said.
• Former Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat wasn’t at either practice after signing a free-agent deal. Shurmur said he decided not to play professional football.
• Cornerback Joe Haden accompanied a Cleveland-area girl to her prom after she asked him on Twitter.