INDIANAPOLIS – When Trent Richardson walked into the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Thursday, September 19th, he was three days away from playing against the defending NFC Champions.
Thinking he was the franchise running back in Cleveland, Richardson was traded to the Colts just hours earlier in a move that is rarely seen around the NFL.
He didn't know more than a handful of his new teammates, not to mention the copious Colts playbook.
Richardson's head was spinning through all of the 2013 season but when the playoffs came around, the No. 3 pick from the 2012 draft admitted he was starting to settle in.
"The system around here, this whole environment was winning again and building a family. It brought me back to my Alabama days," Richardson said.
"Around here, all you hear is winning. They love Colts football and blue-collar players. That's what it is. That's what you live off of. It's just getting back to my basics here."
That comes with a full offseason of not having to deal with coaching changes at the coordinator or head coach level, something he experienced in Cleveland.
Richardson said his grasping of the Colts offense was a slow process as he was learning his fourth different playbook in just two years.
He didn't mince words in describing how important this offseason will be for him.
"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff. It's going to be big---timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system," Richardson said at the conclusion of the last season.
"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. We talk a lot about teammates, fans, people you look up to, taught me a lot about learning and taught me a lot about life. This season was a lesson to me."
Richardson's 2013 campaign in Indianapolis ended with 458 rushing yards in 157 carries.
He has heard the naysayers and while Richardson would be the first to tell you he wasn't pleased with his 2013 output, he's grateful for the support from the Colts.
"If I can say one thing about Coach (Pagano), he's going to have my back. One thing about our GM and our owner, he's going to have my back the whole time," Richardson said.
"From week to week, I was just memorizing stuff. You can never really learn the playbook because you're just going from week to week, plugging me in different stuff and just seeing what I can do and what my skill set is. They could never just work at it, work at it, work at it, because hey, next week we got a game. So, when you come down to it, it's just about timing and repetition. You need that offseason. You need that spring. You need that whole camp. It's the first time I really had to realize that."
At last month's league meetings, Chuck Pagano said the Colts will be relying on more than one back in 2014 but are looking for a "bell cow" to emerge.
With a complete offseason in a comfortable setting, Richardson is primed to be that guy.
"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said.
"He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."