Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks WR Paul Richardson may return Sunday after being wheelchair-bound 9 1/2 months ago.

VIDEO: Pete Carroll: Seahawks WR Paul Richardson 'lightning fast'

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks Monday about the return of Paul Richardson.
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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks Monday about the return of Paul Richardson.

While his Seattle Seahawks teammates enjoyed the desert sun and worldwide attention at the most recent Super Bowl, Paul Richardson was in Florida.

At a medical clinic. In a wheelchair.

“I mean, I couldn’t walk,” the speedy, second-year wide receiver said Monday after his first practice of the 2015 season following his second reconstructive knee surgery in three years in January.

“That was motivation, watching my teammates play without me.”

Richardson was speaking from his locker hours after Seattle’s team doctors cleared him to return to practice off the physically unable to perform list.

As per the NFL’s PUP rules, the team has 21 days from Monday to add Richardson to its 53-man active roster or put him on injured reserve.

Coach Pete Carroll says that decision won’t take nearly that long. In fact, it might come by this weekend.

Carroll has been saying for weeks that Richardson was full speed and ready to go, but PUP rules wouldn’t allow him to practice until last week. When asked Monday if it was unrealistic to think the 2014 second-round draft choice could play Sunday at Dallas, Carroll said: “No, I don’t think it’s unrealistic because of the workouts he’s been through.

“He looked lightning fast (Monday). You know, he’s got the fresh legs. And he’s already really fast. ... He’s been top speed for some time.”

Richardson has been in a hurry ever since he heard a pop in his already reconstructed left knee while running down a throw by Russell Wilson in the divisional playoff game against Carolina on Jan. 10.

“They were trying to help me up, and I had both of our doctors right there (on the field),” Richardson said. “I asked them, ‘It’s my ACL, isn’t it?’ And one of the doctors looked at the other like, ‘OK, he’s not going to get off the field until he knows.’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’

“I knew.”

A couple weeks later he was in that wheelchair in Pensacola, Florida, following surgery by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. He demanded he be let out of there to join his teammates in Arizona for Super Bowl 49, to watch. So he gritted out getting onto crutches with his locked-out left leg, which Andrews repaired by grafting the patella tendon from his good, right knee.

The first time he had his right knee reconstructed, the spring before his junior season at Colorado in 2012, surgeons used the patella tendon from his left, “bad” knee. Richardson said Monday he believes using the one from the good knee this time sped his recovery.

That was motivation, watching my teammates play without me.

Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson

But not immediately. He needed the wheelchair to get to the airline gate in Florida for the flight west the last week of January, four days before his Seahawks played the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But then he was told he couldn’t stand on the sideline during the game propped on crutches or sit there in a wheelchair for safety reasons, in case a player got driven far out of bounds into him. Plus, he was unable to bend his leg to sit in a seat of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

So Seattle’s top draft pick from last season, who caught a 21-yard pass in a playoff win that helped get the Seahawks there, watched the Super Bowl on television back home in Southern California.

That’s also where he also did much of his offseason rehabilitation.

“As soon as I dropped the crutches, I put on my cleats,” Richardson said.

“I’ve been anxious to get out here since my surgery. … I was just upset at myself for getting hurt when I thought my team could have used me.”

Richardson was gaining quarterback Wilson’s trust late in the regular season, with 15 of his 29 catches coming in the final four games. After he had his catch in the divisional playoff game against Carolina, Wilson targeted him again on the next play. He was throwing deep to Richardson when the rookie heard the same, sickening pop in the same knee he had reconstructed prior to his final season at Colorado.

“It was just gaining Russ’ trust, I think,” he said. “Once he knew I was a dependable target and I could get open and I could catch the ball I think he was encouraged more to find me.

“Hopefully I can build that confidence back in our relationship when I am back on the field on Sunday. We can pick up where we left off.”

Yes, Richardson said Sunday. As in, at Dallas, six days after his first practice in 9½ months.

Richardson once ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds, a blur.

And get this: He said he’s been timed since this latest knee surgery and learned he is even faster.

“I know I am,” he said.

How much faster?

“We’ll see when I make the 53-man roster,” he said, smiling.

“I’m just very, very, very appreciative.”

EXTRA POINTS

Carroll said he likes what CB Richard Sherman gives the defense by shadowing top receivers instead of staying on his usual, left cornerback spot. The All-Pro might be matched up against Dez Bryant in the Cowboys game. That’s because the Seahawks are preparing for Bryant to return for Dallas Sunday. The star receiver hasn’t played since the opener because of a foot injury. Word around Dallas is he’s 50-50 to play against Seattle. … C Patrick Lewis should be recovered enough from an ankle injury to play Sunday, Carroll said. So the Seahawks have a decision to make on whether to keep three centers on the roster. They signed veteran backup Lemuel Jeanpierre last week as insurance, when Lewis was still in a walking boot. Jeanpierre can also play guard. Drew Nowak started last week at center for Lewis. Nowak started the first five games of his NFL career at center to begin the season, before Lewis took his job for game six. … FB Derrick Coleman is back practicing after missing last week because of the concussion he received after his two-car crash in Bellevue on Oct. 14.

gregg.bell@thenewstribune.com

@gbellseattle

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