NFL teams rarely make in-season trades, let alone one that involves a big-name player.
Heyward-Bey had a ringside seat for the last trade of similar impact when quarterback Carson Palmer was traded by the Cincinnati Bengals to the Oakland Raiders for high draft picks.
“I just know what today is and what this week will be,” Heyward-Bey said. “It'll be a circus. Everybody will be here. …This is a thing for the media people to get all excited about, but we're still going about our business and getting ready for San Francisco.”
The circus is more exciting than a bunch of reporters elbowing for the best video or photo of Richardson, but the analogy is apt in one regard – people are eager to see the show. National reaction to the Richardson trade ran the gamut from those who thought the Colts pulled a fast one to those who thought the Browns came out ahead to Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson calling the deal beneficial for both sides.
Richardson is expected to play in the 4:25 p.m. Sunday game in San Francisco, and Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he would get as heavy a load as he can carry in such a short time. The trade went down late Wednesday afternoon, with the Colts sending their 2014 first-round pick to Cleveland.
“You're excited to get a guy who can run like that,” Heyward-Bey said. “You understand the business and that any moment things could change around. For us, I definitely look at it as a positive thing for us.”
Richardson expressed surprise that the Browns traded him so soon after he was picked as a building-block for the franchise. But the coaching staff and front office changed during that time. It's a real-time reminder of how quickly things can change in the NFL.
Richardson, 22, joins a team loaded with young talent, including quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, and nose tackle Josh Chapman.
Richardson has known Luck since he was a Heisman Trophy candidate from Alabama and Luck was one at Stanford. They also were acquainted as part of the same draft class.
Richardson believes he can be a great complement to Luck.
“I like to call it a 1-2 punch,” Richardson said. “Me and Andrew, we've been around each other for quite a while now leading up from the Heisman to the draft and training and stuff. Andrew's a good guy, just meeting him and his family, just knowing what type of person he is and just knowing that we're going to grow together, how young we are, we're going to be here for a while. We're not planning on going nowhere. We plan to be here, we plan to grow and we plan to win a lot of games.”
Chapman, a former teammate of Richardson's at Alabama, said he was thrilled to learn Richardson was coming to the Colts.
For one thing, Chapman won't have to worry about trying to tackle him.
“He's one of those running backs defenses hate going against,” Chapman said. “You hate tackling the guy. He's so strong and fast, you have to get a gang of tackles on the guy.”
Richardson, who rushed for 950 yards last season and played part of the season with cracked ribs, fits into the Colts' plans to establish a run-first, run-often balanced offensive attack. Pagano re-emphasized the idea that the Colts will run or pass more frequently depending on the game and situation. But he said he loves what Richardson brings to the team.
“This guy is a rolling ball of butcher knives,” Pagano said. “Ahmad (Bradshaw) is the same way. He fits our system. He fits our scheme to a T.”
The stunning trade caught nearly everyone by surprise.
“I got home from the day at work, turned the TV on and had to rewind the DVR to read it one more time to make sure I saw what I saw,” Heyward-Bey said. “He's a great addition. I think he'll do great.”
Richardson handled the media scrum Thursday, then spent his first Colts practice learning as much as possible. His new teammates, including Bradshaw, worked hard to bring him up to speed.
There's no easing in when you're part of an in-season trade.
“We did not bring him in here to be the water boy on Sunday,” Pagano said. “He'll be ready to roll.”