BEREA — Coach Rob Chudzinski refuted a report Tuesday by saying running back Trent Richardson is scheduled to participate when training camp opens in late-July.
“That is my expectation,” Chudzinski said.
Richardson didn’t practice on the opening day of the three-day mandatory minicamp and will miss the rest of the week. He was sidelined most of the last two weeks of organized team activities after straining a lower-leg muscle near the right shin.
WKNR 850-AM reported Tuesday morning that Richardson would also miss the start of training camp, be out until August and the team is worried that the strain could develop into a stress fracture.
“We are just holding him,” Chudzinski said. “He could have gone these next couple days if necessary, but we are just being real precautionary about it. We don’t want the muscle strain to get any worse.”
Richardson declined to stop to talk to reporters after being advised by a member of the team’s media relations staff. He said he’d talk today. Richardson played 15 games last year but was slowed by preseason knee surgery, broken ribs in Week 6 and a sprained ankle that caused him to miss the finale.
Chudzinski was asked if Richardson could get a stress fracture if he pushes the latest injury.
“I don’t know any of the medical things about what could,” he said. “He’s got a strain right now, so we don’t want it to get any worse than a strain.
“He has a full summer to get ready and prepare and get ready for the season and for camp.”
Richardson’s timing was off as a rookie last season after missing the preseason following arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out loose cartilage. He has to learn another offensive system this season under new coordinator Norv Turner.
“He’ll be able to make that up,” Chudzinski said of the time missed. “The key is that he needs to stay into it mentally and going through. He is getting mental reps and doing those types of things. He has really stayed into it. I think he is excited about this next season and his approach has been good.”
Richardson rode the stationary bike, then did crunches with a medicine ball and rope work. He joined the group for team drills, watching from behind the huddle and following along on a playsheet.
Richardson downplayed the severity of the injury last week and said he didn’t even undergo an MRI.
“It wasn’t that serious to be looking at it that far,” he said. “They just felt around on it and it was like, ‘We’re going to sit you out for now because we don’t want nothing to happen to you as far as not being able to play in the season.’ We want to make sure I’m 100 percent for the real camp.
“I’m feeling good, man. Ain’t no biggie. Ain’t nothing to worry about.”
Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya took Richardson’s snaps with the starters, often together in the backfield.
“The thing I’ve really seen and been most impressed with is Montario catching the ball,” Chudzinski said. “I don’t think he has dropped a pass out here. He has really worked a lot on his hands.
“Obie (Ogbonnaya) is the kind of guy who is dependable, accountable, you know he is going to be there and you know he is going to be doing the right things. His versatility really is something that will help us.”
Ogbonnaya has gotten some work at fullback, and Hardesty spends downtime during drills catching passes.
Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick in the draft, continued to work with the second team, this time on the right side. He’s fast closing on the ball, has showed decent overage skills and jumped high Tuesday to swat down a pass from backup quarterback Jason Campbell at the line.
“Tall, athletic. The sky is the limit on his athletic ability,” inside linebacker and captain D’Qwell Jackson said of Mingo. “Right now, you can tell every day he’s getting more and more comfortable with what he’s doing and the guy has a knack. It looks so effortless, him rushing off the edge, but he has a knack.
“You see the potential. You see that special trait that he has. But for me, you’ve got to go through those dog days when it’s snowing, it’s freakin’ bad weather, it’s 70 plays. I need to see that first. But he definitely has all the tools necessary to make him successful in this league.”
With Pro Bowler Joshua Cribbs gone to Oakland as a free agent, the Browns have a hole at kickoff returner. They are considering multiple options to fill it.
Safety Johnson Bademosi returned the first kickoff in two drills and was followed by cornerback Buster Skrine, receiver Travis Benjamin, running back Dion Lewis and rookie receiver Mike Edwards.
“It’s really open right now,” Chudzinski said. “We’re working a lot of different guys.
“Getting the mechanics of the blocking and the timing of that together, so we’ll continue to work a group of guys back there. Then we’ll hone in by the time we get into the preseason and into the games.”
Lewis has the most experience with 32 kickoff returns in two years with the Eagles, averaging 21.9 yards. Skrine returned three in 2011 with a 24-yard average.
Benjamin returned three kickoffs last year for a 25.3 average and added three punts at 49.7, including a 93-yard touchdown. He’s the favorite to return punts.
Receiver Josh Cooper had a productive day as he made several catches, including going high for a deep throw over the middle from third-team quarterback Brian Hoyer, who also got some reps with the second team.
• Second-year starting quarterback Brandon Weeden made a veteran play as he looked off the safeties short, then threw to receiver Greg Little on a post behind the defense that would’ve gone for a touchdown.
• Weeden left receiver Josh Gordon open to a big shot from safety T.J. Ward, but contact isn’t allowed. Gordon sensed the danger and dropped the ball.
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