Trent Richardson came to the Raiders practice facility on Monday looking for another lease on NFL life. The 24-year old running back has been jettisoned from two teams in three years, with a pro career circling the drain shortly after it began.
The Raiders have given him another opportunity, courtesy of a reported two-year, $3.9 million deal with another $4 million available through incentives. Head coach Jack Del Rio impressed upon him the importance of what could be his final shot.
"Coach (Del Rio) asked me this yesterday, he said, "Trent, how long have you been playing football?'" Richardson said Tuesday in a conference call. "I said, 'Coach, I’ve been playing since six years old.' He said, 'So, what would you do without football? At your age, what would you do without football?' It kind of hit me to where, 'Yeah, you’re right, Coach.' That’s something that you don’t expect, that you don’t hear from everybody."
It was tough love, brutal honesty for a player put on a pedestal most of his athletic life. He was a five-star recruit at Escambia High in Pensacola, Fla. He was a legend at the University of Alabama and was drafted by Cleveland at No. 3 overall in the 2012 NFL draft.
[RELATED: Raiders sign RB Trent Richardson]
Richardson’s NFL career hit some major roadblocks, including ill-timed injuries he says sapped his effectiveness. Others say motivation has done the same for a 5-foot-9, 225-pound rumbler.
He was traded to Indianapolis for a first-round pick after just one season, and struggled in a new environment.
“Trying to fit into their program, it was different for me,” Richardson said. “For me, it was more of me being an all-time blocker. There’s nothing wrong with blocking, but I still want to be able to help the team in different types of ways. I don’t look at it as a bad thing. I just think it was a bad marriage. With that, I don’t blame the O-line or anybody else. At the end of the day, I can still get better and I’m going to be working my tail off and trying to be the best running back now.”
Richardson believes his potential can be realized in Oakland, which offers a chance at significant carries and a solid scheme fit.
“We went over the offense and saw a lot of stuff that I saw in college,” Richardson said. “I know this playbook already, especially when it comes to the run. I know what they expect and how they’re going to spread the field, putting me in a position to be successful. With that, in talking to [Head] Coach [Jack Del Rio], he just said there is just a lot of opportunity out here. He said he isn’t going to promise me anything, but if I come in and work, I can be that bell cow.”
Richardson believes he can be a starter on a team without one locked in. Latavius Murray finished the season strong and has the physical tools of a top-flight back, but Del Rio said a starting spot had to be earned.
Richardson must also sing for his supper, and prove himself worthy of a significant role in the Raiders offense. That’s a new role, considering starting spots and significant carries were frequently handed to him based on pedigree. That won’t stand at this stage. Not with this team. Richardson has to rebuild his NFL reputation, and is looking forward to doing so in Oakland.
“Not saying that I’ve got to start over, but right now, it’s just a fresh start for me,” Richardson said. “It’s something that I can build off of and know that I can lose. With my mindset and the chip that’s on my shoulder, there’s no looking back.”