BEREA, Ohio (AP) — 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 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,” wide 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,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, flattening the idea like he was stepping into the hole to smash a ball carrier. “In this business there is too much pressure on everyone to win. I can’t even fathom that.”
Like everyone, Jackson was caught off guard by the trade. Jackson had left the team’s facility and was at home getting a massage Wednesday when he learned Richardson had been traded. Once the initial shock wore off, Jackson chalked it up to life with the Browns and in the NFL, where anything is possible.
“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 announcing third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer will start Sunday in Minnesota, and wide receiver Greg Little has lost his starting job. Hoyer got the nod over backup Jason Campbell to fill in for Brandon Weeden, who is sidelined with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand.
As a captain, Jackson can’t allow his teammates to be distracted by anything.
“I think in the locker room, guys will talk about it for today and then we’ve got work to do,” Jackson 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 addressed his players and reminded them the focus this week has to be solely on the Vikings.
Still, the Richardson trade was tough to shake. It could change the course of this season, and future ones. But after losses to Miami and Baltimore, the Browns know they need to turn things around quickly.
Richardson isn’t around, and he’s not coming back.
“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. It’s the same task that we had. We’ve just got to go out there, hold it down for the defensive side of the ball.”
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