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September 28, 2013

COLTS PREVIEW: Colts’ backs already forming strong bond

Indianapolis takes on Jacksonville on Sunday

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Colts’ backs already forming strong bond

BY TOM JAMES

CNHI News Service

INDIANAPOLIS -- Just call it “The Brotherhood.”

That’s how Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson describes his relationship with teammate and fellow running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

“It’s been amazing. Since I got in the league, me and Ahmad always kept a good relationship. Meeting him and stuff, I’ve always been a big fan of his. We run a lot similar to each other as far as head-banging and stuff like that. That’s just how we run. It’s how we’re bred,” Richardson said late last week.

“He’s been a big brother, a big help. Making my [learning] process much easier when it comes to learning the playbook. Even with him, he’s still learning a lot of it for him being his first year here. It’s a learning process for both of us.”

While the pair have been on the same team for a little more than a week, Richardson and Bradshaw have proven to be very compatible in the locker room and the practice field. Just how compatible they end up being in a real-game situation over the long haul remains to be seen.

“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve shared the backfield. I had Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy and Roy Upchurch in the backfield with me [in college at Alabama],” Richardson added. “We don’t ever say that we have a 1-2 punch. We say we have a two-headed monster because we don’t look at each other as somebody’s second string and somebody’s first string. We’re both starters in our eyes.”

If last week’s glimpse of the pair in action during the Colts’ 27-7 road win over defending NFC champion San Francisco is any indication, the duo could provide a once anemic running attack into something pretty special.

“We talked about it ever since we got here as a staff. Philosophically, we talk about that you’ve got to be able to run the football and stop the run and those type of things. We want to play a physical brand of football,” Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano stresses. “Every game is going to be different. There’s going to be some games where you’re going to have to throw it a little bit more than run it.”

Bradshaw, who had a game-high 95 yards rushing in 19 carries with a touchdown in the victory over the 49ers, is the starter for the remainder of the season. The former New York Giants running back replaces Vick Ballard, who went down two weeks ago with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a non-contact drill in practice.

Richardson, meanwhile, entered the picture on Sept. 18 after a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns. The third-overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns — behind a pair of highly-touted quarterbacks, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Washington’s Robert Griffin III — saw limited time in the San Francisco game.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bradshaw was involved in 39 total snaps while Richardson, who had two days of practice with the team prior to facing the 49ers, was in for 28 total plays. Those numbers are expected to even out a bit more as the 2013 season progresses.

The prospect of a heavy dose of hard-nosed power football from the veteran Bradshaw and the less-experienced Richardson brings a smile to the face of the second-year Indianapolis head coach.

“[Bradshaw] runs angry, as we always talk about. He’s got a chip on his shoulder and he’s running that way. He prepares extremely hard. He’s ran that way ever since he’s been in the league. He knows. He just wants to win. He knows if he runs that way, he’s going to give our team the best opportunity to win. That’s just how he’s wired and that’s just in his DNA. He doesn’t know any different,” explained Pagano, adding that he wasn’t surprised at what he’s from Richardson despite a lack of quality practice time with the team.

“You consider what he went through in that time span [a week ago]. Finding out, ‘Hey, I’ve been traded.’ Show up with a duffle bag. Sitting in front of a new meeting room, new facility and all that went down in a short period of time. Get fitted, get a new jersey number, go out [to practice]. He did a heck of a job. You consider all that he had went through in a short period of time and to go out and run like he ran and play like he played. Pass-pro, he was excellent. Credit him for being able to focus in and put the blinders on, so to speak, and forget everything that transpired and went down. The kid is a winner. That’s all he wants to do is win. He’s able to put all that other stuff behind him and go out and execute and function and play well for us.”

It’s pretty safe to assume that what everybody saw in last week’s win over the 49ers is pretty much a blueprint of what Pagano would like to see on a regular basis.

“The health of those guys will play a factor, obviously, and who’s got the hot hand will play a factor in it, who we’re playing, all those types of things. But if we can even those numbers out down the road and not tax one guy, it’d be great,” the Colts’ coach explained. “They just want to win. So whatever the plan is, they just want to win.”

And don’t forget that former Colts No. 1 draft pick Donald Brown is the third part of the rotation, although the Bradshaw-Richardson combo are expected to get the bulk of the work.

“Yeah, they all have a role. [Brown is] still effective in his own right, obviously. The guy can run, he’s a home-run hitter. We’re going to have a package for each of those guys. We know what Don can do, whether it’s in space, you get him on the edge. So he’s got a role, a significant role on this team,” Pagano emphasizes.

“Again, I don’t think you can ever have enough runners. Again, I go back to last year, we lost three in one game and had to sign a bunch of guys off the street. He knows the game plan inside and out, front to back, so he’ll be ready to roll and we’ll have a plan for him.”

Bradshaw missed significant practice time this past week with a neck issue and may not be available for today’s game at Jacksonville. If he can’t play, then Richardson and Brown will be the primary running backs for the Colts. Indianapolis also might activate rookie Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad.

“It was impressive that [Richardson] was able to play 30 plays or so last week, and we had only met for maybe 12 hours total. But it’s just a testament to his football acumen. He’s a sharp kid, he’s a gym rat. I know that term starts to become somewhat clichО, but football is important to him,” Colts’ offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton points out.

“He worked at just the small portion, the segment of the playbook that we kind of curtailed for him and he went out and gave us a chance. But he’s coming along and we expect that he’ll be able to do more this weekend. The plays that [running backs] Coach [David] Walker and myself feel like he can handle and he’s ready for, then those are the plays that we’ll highlight that we’ll dial up when he has an opportunity to go in the game. We’re excited about Trent.”

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