Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson carries the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL game on Nov. 4, 2012. (
Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Trent Richardson told reporters his goals for his return to football on Saturday afternoon are “personal,” declining to reveal what he hoped to do against the Toronto Argonauts in his first Canadian Football League game.
In talking about his first game since playing for the Oakland Raiders in an NFL preseason contest on Aug. 30, 2015, Richardson made the experience seem deeply personal.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” Richardson said. “With everything that has been going on in my life, including my kids and stuff, we have went through a lot and to be able to get back out there — people said I couldn’t do it or people were always doubting me. I had little faces back at home, my kids, who really, truly believed in me — and my mom and a couple of other people.
“Just to go back out there and before the game I get that phone call from my kids, and they’re going to tell me, ‘Go out there and do a good job’ and ‘We’re happy’ and ‘Dad, we can’t wait to see you out there.’ Or my mom calling me, telling me to score this amount of touchdowns and make sure I pray before the game. And getting that phone call from my uncle. Before each game I pray with him. It’s going to be big.”
Richardson won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best collegiate running back and finished third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy while helping Alabama win the 2011 BCS national championship.
The Cleveland Browns selected Richardson with the third choice in the 2012 NFL Draft. In three seasons with the Browns and Indianapolis Colts, Richardson had 2,032 yards and 17 touchdowns on 614 rushing attempts and caught 113 passes for 912 yards and two TDs.
But Richardson hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game since Dec. 28, 2014, before the Colts released him with a year left on his contract.
Richardson went to training camp with the Raiders in 2015, but was released before the preseason ended. He’s been out of football since being released by the Baltimore Ravens during training camp on Aug. 2, 2016.
“Hopefully, I get out there full speed and ready to go,” Richardson said. “If there is some rust, hopefully, it ain’t that much.”
Saskatchewan signed Richardson on Sept. 26. He didn’t play in the Roughriders’ 18-17 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday. After a full week of practice with the team, Richardson said he feels ready to play.
“Being here, going through the whole practices and stuff at game speed and doing stuff as fast as we do, just getting my sea legs back under you is big,” Richardson said. “It’s very big because you know the CFL clock is different from the NFL clock, so picking up everything and seeing everything before it starts is big with the time.
“Meshing with the quarterback, meshing with my offensive line, knowing their calls, knowing exactly what they’ve got, knowing when to chip and when not to chip, knowing what hole to get out in, it’s very big. It’s real big when it comes to getting your timing and trying to play fast”
Former Arizona State standout Cameron Marshall is Saskatchewan’s top ball-carrier with 490 yards on 87 carries this season. But he’s missed four games nursing a knee injury. Kienan LaFrance, a Canadian, has filled in for Marshall, and he ran for 52 yards on 12 carries last week against Ottawa.
The Roughriders haven’t indicated if Richardson will start on Saturday, but his position coach said he’s ready to play.
“So far, what he has shown us is a guy who’s hungry to get on the football field,” Saskatchewan running backs coach Kent Maugeri said. “I think he’s going to be a good fit. …
“From the first day, when he didn’t realize there were 12 guys on the field, until now, where (coach Chris Jones) is bringing exotic, crazy pressures and he’s picking them up, he is 1,000 times better and getting more comfortable in the system. Obviously, he has got all the physical tools — he can run, he can block, he can catch — but it has been fun to watch him learn the system and the CFL game as opposed to the NFL game and the college game. He’s really doing a good job.”
Jones, the Roughriders’ coach and general manager, was an Alabama graduate assistant coach in 1997 and a former assistant coach at North Jackson High School in Stevenson.
“He’s a former first-round draft pick and he seems like he’s in good shape, so I would assume that we can hand the football off to him,” Jones said. “… We look forward to watching him run the rock.”
The Roughriders and Argonauts kick off at 3 p.m. CDT Saturday in Toronto. The game can be seen on ESPN3.
Saskatchewan is tied for third in the West Division with a 7-6 record. Toronto is 7-7, but leads the East Division and would clinch a home playoff game by beating the Roughriders.
“This brings back a lot of old memories,” Richardson said, “and so I’m getting out there trying to create new memories.”
“Just getting those sea-legs back under you is big.”
Trent Richardson will make his #CFL debut Saturday in T.O.
— Sask. Roughriders (@sskroughriders) October 4, 2017
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @AMarkG1.