The Colorado Buffaloes will field one of the youngest teams in the country in 2012. Their inexperience level wasn’t helped when their top wide receiver Paul Richardson tore his ACL in the last week of spring practice, having surgery one week later. Well on Tuesday, Richardson sent out a tweet saying that he was recovering ahead of schedule and was going to push to make it back this season, which would be remarkable given the usual 9-12 month recovery period for ACL surgery. While Richardson is optimistic, the Colorado training staff is taking a bit more realistic approach.
Shortly after Richardson’s tweet, Colorado trainer Miguel Rueda released a statement on behalf of the team that urged everyone, Richardson included, to pump the brakes a little. He clarified that Richardson had only been cleared for straight-ahead jogging and running and was still far from being able to make the cuts or run the routes that would be asked of him on a football field. While Rueda did commend Richardson for recovering well and being ahead of schedule, but maintained that there was no timetable for his return and no way to predict whether he would be able to return to the Buffaloes this season.
Even if Richardson does get medically cleared to play this season, though, the Buffs should probably keep him on the shelf regardless. The Buffs are a team that is full of youth on all fronts, which hurts their chances to be a major player in the Pac 12. If the youth of the team comes together to really surprise people, adding a talent, even one as proven as Richardson, would do nothing more than upset the chemistry of a young team making a run. If the Buffaloes struggle this year, which is much more likely, then rushing Richardson back to win five games instead of four makes no sense. Either way, shoving a guy who hasn’t been on the field for the majority of a season of giving his knee the full year to heal is not in the best interests of anybody.
It’s understandable why Richardson wants to get back as soon as possible. The young man was one of the top offensive weapons for Colorado and was poised to have a breakout year as a real playmaker. However, one of the most important things a football player needs to do, especially a player who is carrying the ball, is to make sudden changes of direction. Without properly rebuilding the strength in his knee, or by pushing himself beyond what he’s able to do, Richardson could do even more damage than he already has. While nobody can fault Richardson for wanting to get back as soon as possible, but he and the Buffs need to make the smart choice and look ahead to 2013 when Richardson can make a comeback at 100%.