NAPA (AP) — Trent Richardson looked at his opportunity in Oakland as a fresh start after the once-heralded running back prospect struggled for two years in Indianapolis.
So missing the first week of training camp because of a bout with pneumonia wasn’t exactly the best way to impress his new team.
Richardson practiced with the Raiders for the first time this summer after being taken off the non-football illness list Thursday. The coaching staff threw him right into the mix, giving him second-team snaps in a padded practice that featured Richardson delivering a few hard hits of his own to defenders.
“It feels good,” Richardson said. “It’s probably been the most eager I’ve been to go to practice for a long time. It’s been a long time coming for me. I haven’t been out there practicing.”
Richardson said he first started feeling sick a few weeks ago and then was diagnosed with pneumonia shortly before arriving in Napa for training camp. The coaches and training staff told him to recover fully before returning to the practice field.
Richardson was able to run on the side the past few days and get plenty of time in his playbook while waiting to recover.
“I just wanted to be out there with my guys,” he said. “Everybody is and we’re growing together. I felt like I was missing time on that. I was going hard in the classroom. I was going hard sitting here on the iPad. That’s one thing I was doing. ... I came out here today and didn’t have any missed assignments. I felt good.”
Richardson entered the NFL as one of the most promising running backs in years after a successful college career at Alabama. Richardson is one of three backs since 1996 to go in the top three picks in the draft, joining No. 2 overall picks Reggie Bush in 2006 and Ronnie Brown in 2005.
But after a somewhat promising rookie year in Cleveland when he rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 51 passes and another score while playing much of the season with broken ribs, Richardson has been sent away by teams in his next two seasons.
Cleveland traded Richardson to Indianapolis after just two games in the 2013 season for a first-round pick. Thought to be the final piece needed to solidify an offense led by star quarterback Andrew Luck, Richardson never fit in with the Colts.
He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry with Indianapolis in the final 14 games of the 2013 season and was not much better last season when he ran for 519 yards, averaging 3.3 yards per carry before being released.
“I have a lot to prove to myself,” he said. “Everybody wants to put pressure on me. That pressure is nothing but greatness. People want me to be great out here. They can say I was overweight or out of shape. But if they saw me in that conditioning test, I killed it. That was fun.”
The Raiders hope Richardson can help improve a running game that was the least productive in the NFL last season. He is in the mix with Roy Helu Jr. and undrafted rookie Michael Dyer as backups behind Latavius Murray.
Dyer and Helu are currently sidelined by injuries, leading to Richardson getting extra time on Thursday as the Raiders try to determine what his role will be.
“I think that will evolve as we get going,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We have a number of weeks left. We want him to contribute. We want to devise some plays that fit his strengths as well.”
NOTES: The defense got the best of the day, highlighted by DJ Hayden’s interception against Derek Carr, and Tevin McDonald ending practice with an interception against Christian Ponder. “Today was a day that we’d definitely like to learn from,” Musgrave said. “As soon as we learn from it, we want to forget it because it wasn’t the way to play winning football.” ... RT Menelik Watson missed practice after leaving with an injury Wednesday, giving Austin Howard a shot to play with the first team.