Trent Richardson begins running in a pool
Richardson's knee issues have unfortunately prevented his chances of seeing any preseason action, which does not bode well being that he is a rookie. Though ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi has said that he expects Richardson to be "all systems go" come Week 1, his early season workload is a serious concern.
If Richardson does, in fact, start running outside next week, that will only give him a week or two to get ready physically and get on the same page with his teammates. What works in favor of a heavy workload, however, is the fact that the Browns have very little talent behind Richardson at his position.
Montario Hardesty, the likely early-down replacement for Richardson, averaged a miserable 3.0 yards per carry last season, despite getting plenty of opportunities to shine in starter Peyton Hillis' absence.
Brandon Jackson will be the primary third-down option for the Browns, and while he is a solid pass catcher, his career rushing average of 3.8 is less than mediocre. Jackson also had his chance to shine in 2010 when starter Ryan Grant went down with a season ending ankle injury. Despite starting 13 games on the juggernaut Packer offense, Jackson only managed 703 yards and 3 touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry.
These backups have miniscule talent in comparison to Richardson, but head coach Pat Shurmur may find Richardson's lack of preparation as a reason to significantly limit his action early on in the season.
Richardson is fully expected to be active in the Browns' opener, but his workload is the major question mark. The team will likely give him some action and see how he responds. If he looks good, he'll get more touches. If he's bad, they'll look to their backups.
From a fantasy perspective, Richardson is still a solid pick. There's still a possibility he'll handle a solid workload in Week 1. At worst, he should have the rust shaken off by Week 3 or so and he'll then be the great fantasy player he was expected to be before his knee surgery. Don't bump him too far down your draft board.