Anthony Richardson eager to get back on the field after missing most of 2023 with a shoulder injury

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) carries the ball in the first half of the team's home opener against Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium, Sept. 10, 2023. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson learned plenty in his rookie season.

Coach Shane Steichen helped Richardson improve his understanding of NFL defenses. Quarterback Gardner Minshew provided Richardson new tools for studying film. Receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor provided glimpses of what Indy could be in 2024. Heck, Richardson even lived life temporarily as a lefty following season-ending surgery on his right shoulder.

And Richardson also decided when he returns next season, he’ll continue to use the same style he always has—tough and physical with one new wrinkle.

“I’m going to stay the same, keep being me, keep playing the way I play but like I said being a little smarter when the time is needed,” he said Thursday.

“I can’t try to run through everybody. If it’s first-and-10, get what I can get and get down, get out of bounds. But if the game’s on the line, I’ve got to go out there and compete.”

Richardson certainly showed promise in his four starts.

He completed 50 of 84 attempts with 577 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran 25 times for 136 yards and four scores.

But it wasn’t the seven sacks or the 59.5% completion rate that caused the greatest angst among Colts fans. It was his inability to finish games.

A bad ankle forced him out late in his starting debut, a concussion in Week 2 kept him out of 1 1/2 games and then it was the sprained AC joint that kept him out of the final 12 games.

Could any of the injuries have been avoided? Perhaps. Richardson acknowledged Thursday that if he had not slowed down on his second TD run at Houston, he might have avoided taking the big hit that led to his head hitting the ground hard and the subsequent six-quarter absence.

Those inside the organization, of course, want Richardson to protect himself though not at the expense of what he does best and that made him such an attractive draft pick at No. 4 overall.

“It’s a tough balance, it was a little like this with Andrew (Luck),” general manager Chris Ballard said. “Instinctively, when you get into a game, you react to whatever your instincts take you to. The same thing happens with Anthony. I don’t think Anthony is reckless by any stretch. But learning when to get out of bounds, when to get down versus when you go for it, those are things he’s just going to have to learn.”

Richardson’s decisions led to some hard lessons.

The athletic 6-foot-4, 244-pound 21-year-old struggled to cope with missing time, being away from teammates and unable to help on game day.

Emotionally, it took a toll, too. A hesitant Richardson needed to be convinced surgery would be his best long-term option and routine chores became major challenges without the use of his right arm.

“I had to learn how to do everything left-handed,” Richardson said. “I even started tricking myself into saying I was going to learn to throw with my left (hand). It was kind of tough, just getting in the car—that’s difficult, having to reaching all the way across your car. Trying to sleep, man, that was probably one of the worst things.”

Still, Richardson persevered and now he is on the mend.

During last weekend’s pregame warmups, Richardson worked alone, swinging only his arms as if he was hitting a baseball and using a basketball in a shooting motion.

Next, he plans to return to Florida, where he played high school and college football, and he could resume throwing in just weeks.

That timeline could put him on track to participate in the team’s offseason workouts, perhaps on a limited basis, and could have him healthy for training camp in July when he can start to see what else he picked up.

“We’re encouraged about what we saw,” Ballard said. “This guy is a legitimate passer and I believe that. Anthony can play from the pocket and throw the ball accurately, he just needs to play. I think sitting, it’s unfortunate but there’s always a little light. The ability to sit and watch, I think, is going to be beneficial for him going forward.”

It certainly can’t hurt a guy who doesn’t want to endure any more injury-filled seasons such as 2023.

“I’m not going to lie, those first few weeks were definitely hard for me,” Richardson said. “I’ve dealt with injuries before, but I’ve never sat out games, never was told that my season was done. I just talked to a few people, sat down, opened my eyes and realized I’m blessed to be in the NFL, blessed to be on this team, blessed to be sitting here talking to y’all.”

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