BEREA — Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday and was limited Friday with a sore back.
He’ll be in the lineup Sunday against the Ravens (12-2), who’ve won 10 straight to clinch the AFC North.
“Doesn’t matter how I’m feeling. I’m going out there to get a dub,” he said Friday.
So he’s playing, despite being listed as questionable on the official injury report?
“No matter what,” he said. “A heater won’t (keep him out) and neither will this back.”
Richardson collided with a sideline heater during the game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 and was checked for a concussion before being allowed to return. He said he was trying to hit a Steelers player “really hard” and slid 5 yards headfirst into the heater.
The all-out effort came as no surprise to coach Freddie Kitchens.
“He is all energy, passion and plays hard,” Kitchens said Thursday. “I do not know if I have seen a D-lineman play as hard as Sheldon plays. Makes plays all over the field. You will look up and he is over there on the sideline making plays, and that is on a consistent basis.
“That is exactly what we thought we were getting and that is what we have gotten.”
Richardson signed a three-year, $37 million deal as a free agent in the offseason and has made an instant impact on the field and in the locker room. He has 56 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed while taking on a consistent stream of double teams.
“My work’s not going unnoticed,” he said when told of Kitchens’ comments about how hard he plays. “I really don’t do it for pats on my back. I’m flattered, honestly, but that’s just how I play football. It’s the only way I know how to play football.
“I mean, that’s how I’m in the league. That’s definitely why I’m standing in the league, that’s definitely one of the reasons why I got drafted, my motor was always one of my plus sides. They just never knew how deep it went.”
TRY, TRY AGAIN
The effort of Richardson’s teammates was questioned following the 38-24 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday in Arizona, including by running back Kareem Hunt.
“We had a lot of plays out there last week that looked like guys didn’t want it or play hard,” Richardson said. “The effort was there, but we just didn’t do our technique, we didn’t execute at all.
“So the effort, it’s a missile but it landed in the wrong spot.”
With the chances of making the playoffs down to a microscopic level, Kitchens was asked about the importance of guys practicing and playing hard over the final two weeks.
“I would say this about that: I would just say generically speaking, if you’ve got to worry about a guy playing hard, you’ve got the wrong guy,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.
“We do not have a problem with guys playing hard. We just need to be consistent in everything we do.”
Suspended defensive end Myles Garrett has been permitted back inside Browns headquarters.
The Akron Beacon Journal was first to report the news.
The NFL initially barred Garrett from having any contact with the team when it handed down the indefinite suspension that will run through at least the end of this season. He was suspended for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with Rudolph’s helmet Nov. 14 at the end of Cleveland’s 21-7 win and lost his appeal.
The NFL softened its stance over the last couple of weeks, allowing Garrett to return to the team facility. Garrett still isn’t allowed to practice or attend meetings but is allowed to meet individually with the medical and training staffs, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram.
“In a time like this, you want to be around your brothers and you want to be around your teammates,” cornerback TJ Carried told the Beacon Journal. “This is like a family. So the more we can see him, the better.”
Garrett is required to meet with the commissioner’s office before he can be reinstated, but a team source told The Chronicle last month the Browns expect Garrett to return by the start of the 2020 season.
Kitchens spoke to reporters after practice Friday, and his answers were clipped and stuck to a theme.
“It is mental from this point on until Sunday. Our guys need to spend time focusing on what they have to do, we have to do and doing their job,” he said. “
The defense will have its hands full against the Ravens, who are the league’s top scoring (33.7 points a game) and rushing (202.1 yards) team, led by versatile quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Browns allowed 445 yards, including 226 rushing, against elusive quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.
“It is very simple. If everybody does their job, we will be successful,” Kitchens said. “If everybody has their eyes where they are supposed to be, we will be successful. If everybody has the gap that they are supposed to have, we will be successful. If we are not and if we do not, we will not be.”
Defensive end Olivier Vernon said the defense didn’t have the crispest practice Friday.
“Today was probably one of the days we could have been better communicating,” he said. “That’s just something we’ve got to get better in because Sunday’s right around the corner.”
Vernon has missed five of the last six games with a knee injury. The only exception was 10 snaps Dec. 1 in the 20-13 loss at Pittsburgh, a game the Browns desperately needed to win.
He was limited again this week in practice, listed as questionable and termed his status “day by day.” He said he didn’t have a setback against the Steelers.
“That was my decision to play,” he said. “I feel better than I did then. Just trying to get right.
“I don’t regret nothing.”
Vernon’s absence has compounded the loss of Garrett, who leads the team with 10 sacks. Vernon said whether he plays against the Ravens will be based on how he feels Sunday. He sacked Jackson in the Browns’ 40-25 win Sept. 29.
“He’s a freakish athlete, he’s super strong out there, he does his job, you can count on him to be in the right place and make plays,” Schobert said. “If he’s able to go, it would be huge for us.”
** Center JC Tretter (knee) returned to practice in a limited role, was listed as questionable and is expected to play.
** Defensive back Eric Murray (knee), offensive lineman Kendall Lamm (knee) and running back/kick returner Dontrell Hilliard (neck) were also listed as questionable.
A BIG FAN
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t scout Giants running back Saquon Barkley before the draft because he knew he’d be taken too early for the Ravens to get him. Of the rest of the backs in the 2018 draft, Nick Chubb was Harbaugh’s favorite. The Browns drafted him No. 35 and he leads the league with 1,408 rushing yards.
“I feel like he is proving me right,” Harbaugh said. “Hopefully he will not do it on Sunday, and hopefully we can be up to the challenge. He is a top-level back. Speed, allusiveness, power, hands and pass protection, he really does it all.”