ANDERSON, IN --- 2014 is very important to Trent Richardson. He's acknowledged such, and Saturday he had the Indianapolis Colts all-time leading rusher Edgerrin James watching him practice for the first time.
"It was a blessing, man. Just to watch practice, he said he's going to do a lot more with me, going to be hands-on," said Richardson Saturday after practice. "We've been having phone calls back and forth, but I never had the chance to practice in front of him."
Richardson says the relationship started around the time he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy at Alabama in 2011. As fate would have it, Richardson was traded to the same team Edge burst onto the NFL scene with in 1999, with four 1,500 yard rushing seasons through 2005 with the Colts.
"Last year when he got here during the middle of the season, it wasn't fair to him to try to get in with all the stuff he had going on," said James Saturday after spending more than 30 minutes with Richardson following the end of practice. "I told (Colts owner) Mr. (Jim) Irsay that I would come up during training camp."
"We've had a lot of phone calls. Mentally, he's always been on my side, keep me positive and stuff," Richardson said of James. "Even with the stuff that was happening last year, we always kept in touch. Even before I got (to Indianapolis)."
Richardson's struggles last season are well documented. He averaged less than three yards per carry, after the Colts traded a first round pick for him to the Cleveland Browns. But James says getting traded week 3 in the middle of an NFL season would have been hard on any player.
"It's unfair to kind of judge him on last year, because it's two different systems, and the terminology is totally different," James explained. "He was just kind of thrown out there. You can't really get an assessment."
James said Richardson is going to be a better player in 2014, and he's helping to make that happen.
"It's just a blessing to have him critique you, to have him be your critic. That's a good critic, to have him to show you...it's going to be big for me. It's a big help," Richardson elaborated.
So what advice did James give Richardson? "He said when you practice just make it like a game."
Richardson said James offered more critiques as well, from a resume that includes four Pro Bowls and two NFL rushing titles.
"Just little stuff, stay behind my pads. That's one thing I've always done, one thing he's always told me that's been a positive about me," Richardson recalled. "And make sure I finish runs. That's when you're at practice and not at practice, it all shows up. You'll be ready for the game with that."
Richardson said James will be back out at practice Sunday to watch him practice again. When you're talking about a player who has his own section in the owner's private memorabilia room, alongside other great Colts like Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Eric Dickerson, that's a pretty good mentor to have.