In Cleveland, the Browns and their fans are holding their collective breath, hoping that the knee injury to first-round draft pick and potential franchise-changing running back Trent Richardson is not as bad as it could be.
As it is, the left knee injury is already deemed more serious than first thought, serious enough for the Browns to send Richardson to the foremost authority on knee injuries, Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.
The No. 3 overall selection in April’s draft, Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on the knee Feb. 3, which caused him to miss some portions of the NFL combine before the draft.
Nevertheless, Cleveland traded up to select Richardson, who helped Alabama win a national championship last season. The Browns signed him to a four-year, $20.5 million contract.
With his combination of power and speed, Richardson impressed coaches in camp. But he missed practice Tuesday, when he wore a protective wrap on his leg.
The Brown loyalists are hoping Richardson does not follow in the same disheartening path of many of their past top selections.
For instance, since returning to the NFL in 1999:
- Quarterback Tim Couch, picked No. 1 overall in 1999 out of Kentucky, got battered and bruised in three lackluster seasons. Injuries to his hand and throwing arm contributed to his spectacular demise.
- Defensive end Courtney Brown, the No. 2 choice overall in 2000, was hampered by a series of leg injuries that minimized his production.
- First-round pick Willie Green, a running back, was in scrapes with the law and got stabbed by his fiance.
- A few years later, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. missed an entire season after a motorcycle crash.
- Last year’s top choice, defensive lineman Phil Taylor, is currently recovering from surgery for a torn pectoral muscle and won’t be available until midseason.
Detecting a pattern here? Richardson totaled 3,130 rushing yards on 540 attempts with 35 rushing touchdowns during his time at Alabama. He added 68 receptions for 730 yards and seven scores. Yes, the Browns surely are hoping and praying he does not suffer a fate similar to other Cleveland top picks.