It's not Trent Richardson missing one preseason game that's reason to worry about his health—it's the longer-term implications.
Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson was held out of practice on Tuesday with a sore left knee, the very same one he had repaired via arthroscopic surgery in February. The surgery, to repair a torn meniscus, held him out of participating in drills at the scouting combine, but otherwise Richardson hasn't suffered any setbacks until now.
Perhaps as a precaution, Richardson has worn a sleeve on the leg throughout OTAs, minicamp and now in training camp, but he has never looked slowed or in pain and has given no indication that his knee has in any way been bothering him. All of this is a good sign that Richardson's re-aggravation of the knee is nothing serious, even if it means he may not play in Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.
Richardson did undergo an MRI to check if there was any additional damage to the knee, which was thought at first as more of a precautionary test than a declaration that something serious is going on, but then the news broke on Wednesday that Richardson would be heading to Pensacola, Fla., to meet with Dr. James Andrews, who did Richardson's February procedure, for further evaluation.
Holding Richardson out of Friday's game won't harm his transition into the NFL, and it certainly won't do any damage to his spot atop the Browns' depth chart at running back. Richardson knows exactly what will be asked of him once the regular season begins, and a player of his caliber doesn't need the "refresher course" of a few first-quarter preseason snaps to drill those points home.
However, Richardson is but five months out from having his knee scoped and his meniscus repaired, and though lingering soreness isn't a problem in and of itself, the fact that he's returning to Dr. Andrews (perhaps for a "cleanup," as Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram words it) is a bit more disconcerting.
If Richardson undergoes another procedure, it's important to note what kind of work he gets done. On one hand, perhaps the soreness is a result of excessive scar tissue, which can then be removed. Richardson would then have a relatively short recovery time in which he'll likely be shut down for the rest of camp and the preseason but should be on track to play come Week 1.
However, if there's something more serious amiss, Richardson may have to undergo yet another complex procedure, which could have his playing status in Week 1 and beyond in question.
Richardson, having already participated in training camp, is not eligible for the camp active PUP list or the regular-season PUP, but he could still be otherwise deactivated if he has another, serious surgery. This, of course, is a terrible proposition for the Browns, who were hanging their offense's hopes heavily on the first-rounder.
Even without having undergone surgery in February, every time any player takes the field, whether in practice, preseason or the regular season, there's always the specter of injury looming overhead. Any precautions that can be put in place to limit these risks, especially to players as important as Richardson, are prudent. The visit to Andrews could be precautionary, or it could be a precursor to something more serious; as of now, all we can do is wait.
It's worth noting that it seems there's no one in the Browns organization who is presently anywhere close to panic mode about Richardson missing a practice or Friday's preseason opener, but with so many questions still left to be answered, the relative calmness from the Browns is understandable when things are basically out of their hands.
Though it is time to worry about Richardson's knee, the biggest concern will be if he misses time in the regular season. A couple of practices and one first-team series in Friday's game is nothing; the problem arises if Richardson is about to embark down a path of constant health problems because of this. At least we know we can save the bulk of our worry for when it matters more.