SANTA CLARA -- Vic Fangio sees enough carryover from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts to allow running back Trent Richardson to play a big role in Sunday’s game with his new team.
The 49ers’ defensive coordinator learned late in Wednesday's practice the Colts added Richardson in a trade. So, now, instead of preparing to face running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown on Sunday at Candlestick Park, the 49ers expect to see mostly Richardson in the backfield.
“A lot of times when you have a trade like this during the season, it’s with a guy who’s holding out or something and he’s really not ready to go,” Fangio said Thursday. “This guy is ready to go. I expect him to play a bunch on Sunday.”
The 49ers’ defensive players watched film of Richardson on Thursday morning and came away impressed with what they saw.
“He’s a good running back,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. “You don’t know why Cleveland would let go of a guy like that.”
One 49ers player who is very familiar with Richardson is rookie safety Eric Reid. Richardson played at Alabama, while Reid was an SEC rival at LSU.
“You recognize he’s a good running back,” Reid said. “I don’t think you necessarily change the game plan, just know it might take a bit more ‘umph’ to get him on the ground.”
Richardson (5 foot 9, 225 pounds) scored 11 touchdowns in 17 games with the Browns. He averaged 3.5 yards a carry. He joins an Indianapolis offense that hopes to create some balance on offense to complement quarterback Andrew Luck, the first overall selection in the same draft that saw Richardson selected No. 3.
“I don’t think they’ll be different at all,” Fangio said. “They might just hand it off more than they have been. . . It gives them an upgrade at running back, and we’re going to see him.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano on Thursday said Richardson would play a lot against the 49ers. Fangio said the Colts use a lot of the same run plays and pass-protections as the Browns, so Richardson should have a seamless transition to his new team.
“I’m sure they’ll teach him a good bit of the running game and pass protections in regular personnel and have at it,” Fangio said.
“Whether they’re comfortable enough to put him in on third down and pass protect remains to be seen, but I think their protections are very similar to Cleveland’s. He could be in there most of the time. It would not surprise me to see him play half the game or 90 percent of the game.”