Upon arriving in Seattle last week, one of the first things Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson did was attend a Mariners game with former University of Missouri teammate Justin Britt.
Beyond Safeco Field, Richardson has spent his first few days with his new team in self-imposed solitary confinement.
“I don’t know where to go,” Richardson said after practice Monday. “I haven’t done anything except go to the baseball game with Justin. Other than that, I’ve been in the hotel room, studying the playbook.”
The Seahawks will be thrilled if Richardson sustains his monk-like existence for, oh, the next five months or so. He’s a terrific player who during his three years with the New York Jets was described as a disruptive force on the field and, on one occasion, a dangerous menace off of it.
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In the summer of 2015, Richardson was fined $1,050, given two years probation and ordered to work 100 hours of community service after forcing police to chase him at a speed in excess of 140 mph.
When the cops finally caught up with Richardson, they found a loaded gun under the driver’s seat – no problem in the state of Missouri, as long as the driver is properly permitted.
The problem was that the three passengers in the car included two adults and a 12-year old. The adults presumably had a choice in putting themselves at risk, but the child?
“A pretty crazy situation,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, familiar with players who’ve been in crazy situations and, as it turns out, familiar with Richardson since he was a high-school All-American recruited to play at USC under Carroll.
“Our guys have done a lot of homework on him,” Carroll continued. “We talked to players who played on his teams. We did all the research we needed to. I know he’s had some issues in the past, but he has withstood the test coming back and righting the ship.
“He’s done a really good job. Teammates think a lot of him, coaches think a lot of him – the way he works and what he brings to the game. He’s a very aggressive and up-tempo type of player and guy. He’s gonna fit in here.”
Acquiring a Pro Bowl caliber talent like Richardson required some deft salary-cap maneuvering that depended on the willingness of wide receiver Doug Baldwin to restructure his contract.
Once Baldwin was on board, clearance was achieved for the Hawks and Jets to agree on a trade that’s been called a “win-win” deal on both coasts. In addition to Seattle’s second-round choice in 2018, the Jets picked up wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, occasionally inconspicuous with the Seahawks but an immediate go-to-guy threat with the Jets.
In return, the Hawks are getting Richardson to anchor a defensive line that may never find first-round draft choice Malik McDowell – seriously injured in an ATV wreck – playing one game in a Seahawks uniform.
Richardson will be a free agent after this season, a development he’ll gladly pay an agent to resolve.
“I’m real simple, man,” he said of his inclination to keep business and football separate. “Real simple.”
Yet he understands all that awaits him at the age of 26. He’s a 6-feet-3, 290-pounder who in college was athletic enough to be as implemented as a “spy” on Texas A&M’s scrambling quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner.
“Sheldon has played all over the place,” noted Carroll. “He’s played inside, he’s played nose, he’s played stand-up, he’s played end. He can do everything because he’s a great, all-around athlete.”
A great, all-around athlete fortunate that his 140-mph police chase didn’t end with somebody in the morgue.
But the homework on Richardson has been done, there’s lots of positive references, and the Seahawks are trusting some knuckleheads can grow up to become refreshingly uncomplicated football players.
“I’ve got an opportunity here,” he said. “I want to make most of it.”