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When will Trent Richardson stop sucking?

Trent Richardson wants you to think he’s changed. He wants you to allow him into your circle of trust. Most of all, he wants you know that he’s done being a crushing disappointment.

I’m paraphrasing there, because Richardson’s real words to the Indianapolis Star earlier this week weren’t as prayer-like, and not nearly as desperate. But somewhere deep in his soul the man who one day could be held responsible for killing the first-round running back has to know he’s clinging to an NFL career.

Which is maybe why he set the bar so high for this season. Richardson wants to run for over 1,000 yards.

“For me, it’s personal” he told the Star, while saying he wants to be involved in the passing game, and become a versatile three-down back. “I’m going to keep it to myself, but a thousand is not it for me. It’s higher.”

That’s coming from a guy who was benched in favor of Donald Brown last year, and was given only four carries over the Colts’ two playoff games, one of which ended in a fumble. Those are two rather important games when a player who’s been worth two first-round picks disappeared (one used by the Cleveland Browns to select him originally, and one by the Colts to acquired him in a trade).

Richardson averaged only 3.0 yards per attempt in 2013, bringing his career YPC over two seasons and 455 carries to 3.3. His highest single-game output on the ground last year was 64 yards, and he had eight weeks when his longest run was eight yards or less.

That’s not the work of a running back who’s about to run for 1,000 yards, which is still a notable rushing plateau, though not exceptional. This past season 13 running backs reached the 1,000 yard mark, and in 2012 the number grew to 16. It’s a mark associated with a good running back. A solid running back, and a reliable running back who can be leaned on as a three-down cog in a backfield.

So far Richardson hasn’t even met those minimum qualifications. But maybe there’s a reason to find room in your heart for him this year.

Richardson has been constantly broken, starting with two knee surgeries before even being on the field for a single NFL snap. Then he played 10 games of his rookie season with broken ribs. This will shock you, but getting hit with broken ribs isn’t pleasant.

During his first season with the Colts, Richardson suffered through shoulder and AC joint problems before being restricted throughout the offseason by a wonky hamstring. That’s a whole lot of physical crumbling for a 23-year-old, all over only a few years.

The Colts still have faith in him, mostly because at this point they don’t have much of a choice. Brown departed for San Diego during the offseason, Ahmad Bradshaw is also a walking muscle rip, and Vick Ballard is gone for the season with a torn Achilles. That leaves Indy clinging to Richardson atop the running back depth chart.

The reason for faith lies in his temporary health (he’s healthy right now, just ask him), and new-found familiarity with the Colts offense. Head coach Chuck Pagano has told anyone who wants to listen that Richardson needed time last year to get comfortable with the system, and that comfort hasn’t really reached the desired level until now.

Fair enough, and please recall that Marshawn Lynch didn’t clear 100 rushing yards until his 19th game with Seattle after being traded out of Buffalo. But even with the injuries, and even with that lack of comfort, Richardson’s utter blindness when trying to navigate past the line of scrimmage is still damning.

Seeing the field isn’t restricted by your ribs or shoulder. It should be a natural instinct for any high-level running back who’s healthy enough to be on the field.

Richardson is still young, he dropped from 240 pounds this offseason to 225, and he’s still surrounded by plenty of support in Indianapolis from a passing game led by Andrew Luck, and his targets Coby Fleener, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, and now Hakeem Nicks.

But I’ll start believing in a him as a feel good, bounce-back story once he shows that vision, a fundamental skill.

Sean Tomlinson

About Sean Tomlinson

Hello there! This is starting out poorly because I already used an exclamation point. What would you like to know about me? I once worked at a mushroom farm, which is sort of different I guess (don't eat mushrooms). I'm pretty wild too, and at a New Year's Eve party years ago I double-dipped a chip. Oh, and I write about football here and in a few other places around the Internet, something I did previously as the NFL features writer and editor at The Score. Let's be friends.

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