On Tuesday, Trent Richardson was seen on the sidelines riding a bike with a rubber sleeve encasing his left knee, the same knee that was scoped back in February. The original prognosis was positive. MRI results revealed no damage and a source admitted it was "no big deal," but the troublesome swelling and residual soreness elevated owner concern.
Now, sadly, it's time to freak out.
Wednesday afternoon Chris Mortenson dropped a bombshell on Fantasyland revealing Richardson's scheduled visit with Dr. Death, James Andrews, isn't just for a routine checkup. The prized back is expected to go under the knife... again. From Adam Schefter:
Trent Richardson is tentatively scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery Thursday to remove a "hang nail particle" of loose cartilage that is irritating the left knee but it is expected to allow him to return before the regular season opener.
As noted above, the setback isn't a complete life-is-not-worth-living situation. As Mort and Schefter both indicate, the popular first-round pick is expected to be in uniform for Cleveland's opener at Philadelphia. However, his initial role is likely to change. Training camp and exhibition reps are invaluable for inexperienced players. Though the cerebral demands at running back are lower compared to other positions, working on the side definitely limits one's physical conditioning. Similar to Adrian Peterson and possibly Maurice Jones-Drew the youngster could take a week or three to catch up to full speed. And that's assuming the procedure and subsequent workouts go smoothly. Even if he does come back strong, the newly installed Browns front office may baby him a bit. Montario Hardesty, who's looked revitalized according to local reports, could eat into Richardson's projected 20-25 touches per game load. At this point, it's certainly plausible the rookie could be more show pony than workhorse.
In light of the news, T-Pain obviously is no longer worth reaching for in Round 1 (13.7 ADP). There are simply too many risks involved. Think of him as more of a high-end RB2 in 12-team formats, a Round 3 or Round 4 back. Doug Martin should be the more coveted rookie rusher. DeMarco Murray, Jamaal Charles and Steven Jackson also deserve strong consideration over him.
Still, he shouldn't be completely dismissed.
If his recovery is indeed brief and seamless, he is very capable of totaling 1,200-1,400 yards with 7-9 TDs. His intradivisional schedule is daunting, but Cleveland is a club on the rise. The offensive line is much improved and Brandon Weeden should help bolster a passing game that was largely anemic last year, preventing defenses from overloading the box.
Once believed to be the position's next great superstar, Richardson is just the latest in a long line of high-profiled RBs blemished by uncertainty.
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