Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson has been in the NFL for just one full season, and already there are serious questions about his durability. After battling injuries throughout his rookie season and not living up to the hype of being the 3rd overall pick in the draft, Richardson was held out of OTA’s with yet another injury and won’t workout with the Browns again until July. Although he’s just one year into his career, and the Browns held him out just as a precaution, they have to be starting to worry about Richardson’s future, and that he may always be plagued by injuries, which will prevent him from ever reaching his full potential as a player.
What’s curious about Richardson is that it’s not one recurring injury that is keeping him off the field, but a variety of injuries to different body parts. Last season, Richardson missed time with a knee injury, broken ribs, and an ankle injury; and now he’s missing offseason workouts with a pulled muscle in his lower leg. With such a variety of injuries, Cleveland has to ponder whether it’s just an unlucky year for Richardson or if he’s always going to be vulnerable to injury.
The rash of injuries Richardson has suffered is somewhat odd, as he conceivably has the strength and body type to withstand the punishment of a full NFL season; all while being a feature back that can handle a high volume of carries. This gives the Browns some hope that Richardson can eventually get healthy and stay healthy, instead of constantly having to overcome injuries and either play hurt or miss time. If so, Cleveland will have a top-flight running back on their hands who can be the type of difference maker on offense that few teams have, as he is a physical specimen with a myriad of talents as a ball carrier. But if Richardson can’t remain healthy, the Browns will have a player, who while useful at times, will never be able to make the type of impact that’s expected of a player that was drafted 3rd overall.
One advantage that the Browns have with a running back like Richardson is that he’s able to play through some injuries, as he did last season with his broken ribs, and he can still be a productive back, even when he misses time and isn’t able to practice. However, there is a drastic difference between Richardson when he’s completely healthy and when he’s dealing with a nagging injury. With an injury, he is on par with an average NFL rusher, as he was still able to gain 950 yards and score 11 touchdowns on the ground last season, despite all the injury trouble he dealt with. But if Richardson was healthy, and could stay healthy, he could one of the best running backs in the NFL, and there is a huge disparity between what Richardson can do when healthy and the limited contributions he’ll be able to make if battling injuries.
It’s obviously too early to write off Richardson as being injury plagued, but it’s not too early for the Browns to be seriously concerned about the health and future prospects of their franchise running back. Richardson hasn’t been healthy since he came into the league, and until he can prove that the past year has been an aberration and he’s capable of staying healthy in the long run, the Browns should be worried that he will never be the player they expected him to be when they drafted him.