December 20, 2014

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Browns notes: Richardson admits he played with two broken ribs

BEREA — Browns running back Trent Richardson finally came clean Monday as he was cleaning out his locker at the end of the season.

The rookie from Alabama admitted that he actually suffered two broken ribs, in addition to torn cartilage on the left side of his chest, on Oct. 14 against the Bengals.

“My (surgically repaired left) knee never gave me a problem, but the ribs are broke and it’s tough playing like that,” Richardson said. “I’m the type of guy when anything is hurting, if I can play, I can play, so I did.

“Talking to Jim Brown and a lot of guys, they were like, ‘I don’t know how you’re doing it.’ That’s why, like I said, to go through a whole season like that, I don’t think (my performance) was that bad.”

Richardson also revealed that he needed help getting dressed and showering for almost a month after being hurt in the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and had to sleep in a chair because his side and back were so sore.

Ex-Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur repeatedly refused to disclose the details of Richardson’s injury, though running backs coach Gary Brown mentioned his broken ribs for the first time late last week.

“I know I’ll be healthy before next season, and I’ll be back right in training camp and OTAs,” the third overall pick in the NFL Draft said, breaking into a smile. “Ya’ll will see me flying around and see me back skinny-man again because I won’t have that big vest on next year.

“I’m going to have a rib protector on, but I won’t have a big vest on. I’ll be back to being the same old me and getting back to what I know: hard-nosed, smash-mouth football.”

Richardson completed his first NFL season with a team-high 950 rushing yards, 51 receptions and a Browns rookie-record 12 touchdowns, but only averaged 3.6 yards per carry. He ranked 18th in the league in rushing despite missing Cleveland’s final game with a left high ankle sprain.

“This next offseason and training camp will do me good because I just had to go out there in the fire and play football this time,” the 5-foot-9, 230-pounder said. “Next year is going to be one of the biggest years for a running back that you’ve seen around here.”

With Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban on the Browns’ wish list for Shurmur’s replacement, it’s not out of the question that he could be reunited with Richardson in 2013.

But as a visible Alabama alum, Richardson expressed mixed emotions about that possibility.

“If he was to leave Alabama, most definitely I would love for him to be here,” he said. “But I doubt if he would come to the NFL. And to leave Alabama, I can’t see him leaving.”

The chosen one

Quarterback Brandon Weeden started the Browns’ first 15 games before suffering a sprained right shoulder on Dec. 23 at Denver. The rookie from Oklahoma State sat out his initial game Sunday when Cleveland wrapped up its season with a 24-10 loss in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just a (throwing) shoulder injury, nothing serious,” he said. “I’m probably on the DL for the next seven or eight days.”

Weeden threw for a Browns rookie-record 3,385 yards, but had the fourth-lowest passer rating in the NFL at 72.6. The three QBs below him (Jacksonville’s Chad Henne, the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez, and Kansas City’s Matt Cassel) are not expected to retain their starting jobs next season.

With his biggest fan in Shurmur now gone, Weeden says his status for 2013 is also weighing on his mind.

“Concerned isn’t the right word because I’m confident, but I’m also anxious,” he said. “You never know whichever route they’ll decide to go.”

Weeden declined to share his thoughts on possible Cleveland coaching candidates, but admitted, “I don’t think I can run the zone read,” about University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s offensive system.

Rave reviews

Linebacker Scott Fujita, who suffered a career-threatening neck injury on Oct. 7 at the New York Giants, has not filed retirement paperwork with the NFL office. He is one of 19 players on Cleveland’s roster who will be free agents following the Super Bowl.

Fujita, an 11-year veteran, had high praise for the way Shurmur conducted himself during his two seasons.

“I’ve never seen a coach with that much on his plate in two years,” he said. “To handle it the way he did and to not let the distractions come in and infiltrate the locker room, you couldn’t have asked for more out of him.

“You had a lockout (in 2011), young roster, sale of the team, players facing suspensions — there was a lot of stuff on his plate. He handled it very, very well.”

Flight plans

Tackle Joe Thomas and kicker Phil Dawson will represent the Browns in the NFL Pro Bowl on Jan. 27 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Impending free agent Dawson could be wearing the brown and orange for the final time on that evening at Aloha Stadium, but didn’t want to discuss his chances of returning to Cleveland.

“I’m open to talking to anybody because I need a job,” he said. “There will be a time for that stuff, but it’s not right now. Everything has to sort itself, but I’m open to anything. I am just going to go home and let everything sort itself out.”

Dawson and Dallas’ Dan Bailey wound up sharing the top field goal percentage in the NFL for the season at .935. Both kickers were 29-of-31, while Minnesota’s Blair Walsh was third at .921 (35-of-38).

Waiting game

D’Qwell Jackson (inside linebacker), Alex Mack (center), and Joshua Cribbs (kick returner and special teamer) remain first-alternates for the AFC Pro Bowl team. If any players at their position decline to participate or advance to the Super Bowl, they would be offered spots on the roster.

The AFC inside linebackers are New England’s Jerod Mayo and Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson; the centers are Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey and Houston’s Chris Myers; the kick returner is Houston’s Jacoby Jones; and the special teamer is New England’s Matthew Slater.

“I’m rooting for New England in the playoffs,” Jackson said. “It would be great to have a chance to go to my first Pro Bowl, so I’m behind them 100 percent.”

Looking ahead

The Browns will have the sixth pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Kansas City, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia and Detroit comprise the top five.

Cleveland and Arizona both finished 5-11, but the Browns’ strength of schedule (.508) was easier than the Cardinals’ (.559), moving them up one spot.

• Cleveland’s 2013 opener takes place on Sept. 8, while its final regular-season game will be played on Dec. 29. Both dates are Sundays.

The Browns’ home opponents will be Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Miami and Pittsburgh. Their road foes are Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, New England, the New York Jets and Pittsburgh.

Quote of the day

“I told him yesterday, ‘Thank you for giving me the opportunity to play in the NFL.’ He got my career started and he was the guy who brought me to the league, so I told him thanks for all of that.” — Browns running back Montario Hardesty on now-former Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.