As the Trent Richardson and the Colts prepared for their game in Jacksonville this week, Richardson was on a conference call and asked a number of questions about his time in Cleveland. To Richardson’s defense, he answered the questions he was asked and did not appear to be going out of his way to swipe at the Browns, but he did appear to make a statement that may not go over terribly well with his old team. Richardson left Cleveland with a lot of class in how he encouraged the fans to keep believing in the team, that the front office know what they are doing and this team is close, but his quote today along with a small issue he brought up when he got to Indianapolis stand out, but he might be right.
September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson (34) looks on during warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
When Richardson initially got to the Colts, he made a statement basically saying that the Colts’ team has more fun, is more optimistic, so on and so forth. It is somewhat understandable because the Colts were in the playoffs last year while the Browns are trying to get the sort of direction going with their roster and improve on a season where they won 5 games. In addition, they started out 0-2 and the offense looked like a train wreck, so it would have been odd if the Browns players were happy and upbeat about everything. Today, here is the question he was asked and his response.
"How different is the atmosphere? Cleveland where they’re rebuilding and Indy is coming off a playoff berth – can you tell in the locker room? “Yeah and the atmosphere here with the players is way different. It’s much cooler, much family vibe, people actually come to work and are just ready to work and have fun. People are enjoying their jobs. I don’t think it’s one guy. I can look to my left and to my right and say that this guy is not trying as hard or he’s not giving it all to him because these guys will get onto you about that and make sure you’re working.”"
Wait a minute. Not only is Richardson suggesting the Colts have a more upbeat atmosphere, but he also seems to suggest that the Browns have players who are not working as hard as they possibly can and lack leadership; at least on the offensive side of the ball. That might not go over too well with some of his former teammates. The reporters picked up on this and Richardson backpedaled slightly, appearing to realize his misstep.
"Were some guys in Cleveland not giving their all? “I can’t say that they weren’t giving their all but there were times that it was a Wednesday or it’s a Monday or something like that. Sometimes you have a mindset saying you don’t want to go to work today or something like that. I’m not saying these guys don’t get a day off but here you can just hear the different vibe with the family and the brotherly love here.”"
There is clearly a different direction with the way they answered this question and Richardson seems to realize he made a mistake. The Browns players are not always engaged but it is somewhat excusable because of the team’s predicament. And really, the Colts are just great more than the Browns are bad.
The question about work ethic on the Browns players; there is no way to substantiate that part of it. The issue he raises that he may have not meant to bring up is the lack of leadership on the offensive side of the ball. Not only has D’Qwell Jackson become the unquestioned leader of the defense but really, he has become the voice of the entire team.
Joe Thomas seems to be the leader of the offense largely by default. He seems almost reluctant. Thomas seems to want to be a lead by example type leader and would really like to see someone step up and really become the guy that is the man on offense. They do not have a guy on that side of the ball yet and it is a problem that needs to be resolved. Obviously, not having a legitimate quarterback in place is a huge part of it, but no one else outside of the offensive line has the gravitas to be a leader on this team.
Outside of Thomas, it is basically Alex Mack. Everyone else is too young, too immature or simply not good enough at this point in their career to be the guy. Mack is the leader of the offensive line by nature of the center position, but his status is somewhat in the air right now. There was some talk about possibly getting Mack a contract extension but that talk ended the second the season started, so right now, Mack is scheduled to be a free agent at season’s end. It is hard to imagine that the Browns would not get a deal done for their franchise pivot, but it could have an impact on his perceived role on the team.
There is a leadership vacuum on that side of the ball that needs to get solved. Unfortunately, the best they can hope for is that Brian Hoyer takes control and is able to get them going this season. That is a short term solution and they need a legitimate signal caller to be that guy or someone else who can step up and be a leader on offense.
None of this changes the fact the Browns made the right move in trading Richardson, but his misstep in this interview is relatively small, but there might be some less than thrilled players in the Browns locker room when they are made aware of a quote like this one. Certainly, Richardson is not exactly taking a real shot at the organization or anything like that and he tried his best to talk up the Colts while talking about what he liked about being a Brown. This is nowhere near the level of criticism that Steve Smith of the Panthers had for Rob Chudzinski. Nevertheless, it would be a surprise if members of the media do not ask players at the complex about what he is saying.