One catch, 40 yards. On paper, that was Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson's 2015 season.
That very brief stat-line doesn't reflect the all the work, all the sweat and all the frustration that went into Richardson's second season in the NFL, however.
After showing promise late in the 2014 season as a rookie, the second-round pick out of Colorado tore his ACL in Seattle's playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers, an injury that didn't just keep him from finishing his rookie season by playing in the Super Bowl, but that also carried over to last season. Richardson opened the 2015 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, then after working his way back for Seattle's Week 10 game against Arizona, Richardson injured his hamstring while hauling in his lone reception of the season. When that injury didn't respond as quickly as hoped, Richardson was placed on injured reserve, ending a season that barely got going.
"It was pretty frustrating, because I want to play football," Richardson said during minicamp two weeks ago. "I just felt like I could have been helping, and I wasn't prepared and I tore my hamstring. I've just got to be smart and take care of my body and play within myself."
In a season that saw Richardson spend most of the year sidelined by injury, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and rookie Tyler Lockett established themselves as the team's clear top three receivers in both playing time and production, while Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams climbed from the practice squad to the active roster, and have continued to build on that progress in offseason workouts this year. Yet as those two continue to grow, and as Douglas McNeil III enjoyed a strong offseason as well, and with Kenny Lawler being added in the draft, people shouldn't also forget what a healthy Richardson can bring to the receiver competition when training camp opens.
The Seahawks made Richardson their first pick in the 2014 draft because they saw so much potential in his ability and speed, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said they recently timed Richardson as the fastest he has ever been since they acquired him. The type of speed Richardson possesses—he ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2014—is one of football's rarest and most sought-after traits, and because of that, it would be foolish to sleep on Richardson heading into 2016, even if he is coming off of a year lost to injury.
"Paul is off to a great start in camp, gosh he has done really well," Carroll said. "Obviously the hard work that he had, he had so much work on the sidelines last year. He is strong and really fast. We clocked him as fast as he has ever been for us in the OTAs, he is ready to compete and really help us."
Richardson was one of several offensive players who took part in the offseason workouts organized by Russell Wilson in Los Angeles during the spring, and both there and in OTAs and minicamp, he has shown his teammates and coaches that he is ready to be a factor in 2016.
"We all know he has elite speed, so he can be that big-play factor for us stretching the field, but he's also got pretty good route-running skills as well," Baldwin said. "That's a combination that suits receivers really well—having that top-end speed, being able to scare defensive backs out of their back pedal, but then also being able to break on a dime and come out of his cuts. He has been working really hard on that and staying healthy, and he's another guy I'm excited about seeing what he can do for us."
Richardson knows that having a breakout season has to start with staying healthy. For all the work he did to get back from the knee injury, Richardson says he could have done more to help his flexibility to perhaps avoid a second injury. It's why stretching and core conditioning are among his offseason focuses this year, as is listening to what his body is telling him.
"I've just got to be smart," Richardson said. "If I feel something, don't ignore it. Before anything happens, be on top of it… More stretching, more body and core conditioning."
Looking back on 2015, Richardson calls the season, "Pretty deflating. My attitude, my spirits were down, I had to find a way to pick back up to be able to come back for this offseason. That's what I did, and I'm pretty proud of how things have gone since then."
And having come back strong this offseason, Richardson is confident he can help Seattle's offense going forward.
"Just adding more versatility to our offense and our special teams with my speed," he said. "I'm fast, man. They've been using that every way they can and it's been working out.
"I'm very excited… I just think I can come in with more speed, stretching the field, and guys will be open underneath. Then when they start paying attention to that, we'll get them downfield as well, so I think I'll just add to what we're doing.