The two wooden lockers Trent Richardson used daily were barren, nothing left behind from his short stay with the Browns.
Face of the franchise one day. Gone the next.
Still somewhat shaken by the new front office’s decision to trade Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick, the few Browns who ventured into the locker room on Thursday expressed shock at the deal, it’s timing and they vowed to move forward in a season not yet three weeks old.
“It was a shock to everybody,” receiver Josh Gordon said. “Everyone was in disbelief.”
With an eye toward the future, the Browns shipped Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 and one of their few players with star magnitude, to the Colts for a selection in next year’s draft. But the alarming move to trade the powerful running back raised a flag for Cleveland’s long-suffering fans, who view the hasty transaction as a sign that Browns’ management is throwing away this season to better align itself for 2014 and beyond.
“That’s not even realistic,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “In this business, there is too much pressure on everyone to win. I can’t even fathom that.”
To offset the loss of Richardson and add depth at running back, the Browns signed free agent Willis McGahee. He spent last season with Denver, leading the Broncos with 731 yards. The nine-year veteran passed his physical as the Browns were practicing, worked out for Cleveland’s coaches and signed his contract.
Like everyone, Jackson was caught off guard by Richardson’s trade. Jackson had left the team’s facility and was at home getting a massage Wednesday when he heard. Once the initial shock wore off, Jackson chalked it up to life with the Browns.
“I’ve been around here for a long time and I’ve seen a lot happen and that’s one of those deals where it’s out of your hands and out of your control,” he said. “I’m not saying that he’s not a good player. He’s just going to be a good player for another organization, and the powers that be felt like that was the best thing for the team and we’ve got to move forward.”
Jackson said there’s no time to dwell on the trade, which came within hours of the Browns naming third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer their starter Sunday in Minnesota, and wide receiver Greg Little losing his starting job. Hoyer got the nod over backup Jason Campbell to fill in for Brandon Weeden, sidelined with a sprained right thumb.
As a captain, Jackson’s duty is to keep his teammates focused.
“I think in the locker room, guys will talk about it for today and then we’ve got work to do,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of studying to do, a lot of film to watch, we’re trying to get the first win. So, yeah, it’s going to be in the back of our minds. We wish Trent the best of luck. But we’ve still got a job to do.
“We have to put our hard hats on.”
That was the same message delivered by Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, who reminded his players to lock in on the Vikings.
“We still have to go out and do what we do,” safety T.J. Ward said. “Nothing changed for us. It’s the same road. We’ve just got to go out there, hold it down for the defensive side of the ball.”
Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, who signed as a free agent in March, doesn’t think the trade is a sign of surrender.
“Definitely not,” he said. “We’re out there and we put in work every day to win. This doesn’t change that, so right now we’re working to beat Minnesota and we’re going to continue to do that. I respect the decision they made.”
Jackson appreciates why some Cleveland fans are in an uproar over Richardson’s departure. Once considered a building block, he wasn’t around long enough to make a major impact.
“Trent was going to be the face of this organization, a high draft pick, much was expected out of him,” Jackson said. “Now that he’s gone, I can see the frustration of the fans. The die-hard fans thought we had something in Trent.
“That’s the ugly side of the business we can’t control.”
Weeden visited a hand specialist, but the team provided no update. ... DE Ahtyba Rubin practiced again and could make his debut after missing two games with a calf injury. ... Offensive coordinator Norv Turner believes Richardson will thrive in Indy. “A lot of times players’ success depends on the situation they’re in and the people around them,” he said. “I think he’s going to have an opportunity to be real successful.”