Saban, who will lead the Crimson Tide against Notre Dame in the BCS national championship game in Miami on Jan. 7, has been mentioned as returning to the NFL, perhaps with the Browns if second-year coach Pat Shurmur is fired at season’s end.
“I can’t see him coming to the NFL,” Richardson said Wednesday. “I would be very shocked.”
And Richardson knows the coach quite well. After all, he was a standout running back for Saban at Alabama before being selected in the first round by Cleveland in April. Richardson ran for 1,679 yards last season for the Crimson Tide.
“How can you get tired of winning,” Richardson asked. “He’s got so much going there. He has no reason to leave. He gets what he needs and he treats his program like the NFL (anyway). He makes sure his players are prepared for the game and prepared for the next level when the time comes.”
Any exit to the NFL wouldn’t be foreign to Saban, who led Alabama to national titles in 2009 and 2011. He left his post at LSU, in fact, to become coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2005. After going 15-17 in two seasons there, he went back to the SEC, this time in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“I can see him staying at Alabama,” Richardson said, “and retiring at Alabama.”
“I don’t believe it,” Richardson said. “Rumors are rumors. I don’t buy into it and that’s one thing he taught me to do _ not buy into rumors.”
Richardson is more concerned with playing the playoff-bound Denver Broncos (11-3) on Sunday. The No. 3 overall pick is 46 yards shy of surpassing Hall of Fame standout Jim Brown’s 55-year-old team rookie rushing record of 942 yards for the Browns (5-9).
“I’m ready for a big day,” Richardson said. “Anytime Jim Brown’s name is mentioned, it is big for me. Huge.”
Richardson, who missed all of training camp after having minor surgery on his left knee in July, has already set a new franchise rookie mark with 11 rushing touchdowns. Overall, he has 258 carries for 897 yards.
“I’m good to go,” he said. “No issues with the knee. None. With the ribs, I am not going to stop playing ball. I am going to keep on going no matter what.”
All that said, he did reveal for the first time that he occasionally had trouble breathing in his first few games with the injury. He has adjusted his mindset to ignore the pain. He doesn’t anticipate difficulty in Denver’s mile-high thin air.
“I’ve never played there, but I’ll be OK,” he said. “If I need oxygen, I’ll take it and go play.”