SEATTLE – Paul Richardson wasn't sure what to do with himself as he stood in the north end zone at CenturyLink Field Thursday night.
It had been 20 months since the Seahawks receiver had a touchdown reception in a game, a span of less than two years in which catches and touchdowns were replaced with surgery, countless hours of rehabilitation, two stints on injured reserve and one on the physically unable to perform list. And yes, this touchdown came in a preseason game, so it may not be one Seahawks fans remember forever, but it was still special to Richardson after missing almost the entire 2015 season because of injuries.
Richardson, Seattle's second-round pick in 2014, suffered a torn ACL late in his rookie season just as he was starting to establish himself as a regular part of the passing game. Because that injury came so late in the season, he also missed Seattle's first eight games in 2015, then on his first catch of the 2015 season in his first game back, he injured his hamstring while hauling in a 40-yard catch and ended up on injured reserve. Add to that an ACL injury in college, and it's easy to see why Richardson was ecstatic over a 9-yard touchdown that won't count in his season stats.
"It was great man," Richardson said. "I was really excited, I didn't even know what I wanted to do, I just kept yelling, kept screaming. I was so happy, man. I'm just appreciative, I'm so blessed to be in this position right now after my second ACL surgery. I'm excited, I'm happy."
While Richardson didn't finish the 2015 season, his hamstring injury wasn't serious enough to linger into the offseason, which means he had a full spring and summer of working out both in official team workouts, and also with Russell Wilson and other receivers in Los Angeles. A healthy offseason of hard work has been showing throughout training camp and the preseason, which is why coaches fully expect Richardson to be a big part of the offense this season.
"It's been that way, we've been saying that," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's had really good progress all the way throughout. He had his best week in preparation, he caught some big balls in practice. He came out and played like it. It was a great catch for the touchdown, a great throw and catch. Just really nice execution. Great to see him part of the group."
Richardson's touchdown was in part the result of a perfectly-thrown touch pass from Wilson, but the play also worked because Richardson had the speed to get a step on Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, and the strength and sure hands to make the catch with Claiborne on his back.
"He has worked so hard, and you're proud of a guy who is so determined, so skilled and who also wants it," Wilson said.
Wilson noted that he and Richardson worked on a very similar throw during preseason warmups, though it was much more impressive in the game with Claiborne providing solid coverage.
"He made a great catch with a guy all over him," Wilson said. "He had a great catch, and he's a very, very good corner, Claiborne, he's a great player. It shows what Paul can really do."
Richardson knows there's still more to do to prove himself, particularly when the games start counting in the standings next month, but all of the indicators have been very positive after a year lost to injuries.
"It has been great," Richardson said. "I think the coaching staff has been doing a great job of slowly working me in. Then just gaining the trust back of my teammates, I just want them to see me in practice making plays and seeing that I can do those things that I was brought here to do. I like vibing with them and the responses I'm getting back, so I just want to continue to do right to help us."
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Look through some photos of Seahawks vs Cowboys during Preseason Week 3 at CenturyLink Field.