CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sheldon Richardson usually uses his 6-foot-3, 294-pound frame to wreak havoc on opposing NFL offenses. But for two plays during the New York Jets' 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers, he turned the tables and used his body to try pounding the ball into the end zone.
Lining up in the backfield behind quarterback Geno Smith, Richardson ran the ball on consecutive plays from the Carolina 2-yard line. He gained a yard each time, which was good enough in the end for the rookie defensive lineman's first NFL touchdown.
Richardson, 23, admitted it was the first time he had touched the ball on offense or scored a touchdown since high school, when he “played everything.”
Running back? Check.
But that was a long time ago. He admitted that he wasn’t surprised to get the chance Sunday, because the Jets “practiced it a few times” last week. And when he didn’t get into the end zone on his first attempt (although both he and coach Rex Ryan thought he did), there was no question he was going to get another attempt.
Not in Richardson’s mind. Not in Ryan’s. Not in offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s.
“Marty wanted it in there, so I told him to give it back to me. He had already relayed the call,” Richardson said. “I thought I scored the first time. But [the officials] needed to be reassured, so I did it again.”
Ryan added: “We’ve been working on it and thinking they shouldn’t be able to deny that guy down there, and we just kept running it. We thought we scored the first time, but we were a little short. And I’m like, ‘Well, we’ll just run it again.’ And that’s what we did.”
The touchdown with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter drew the Jets to within 16-13, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie later admitted the unconventional score brought smiles to the faces of Richardson’s defensive teammates on the sideline.
“He looked good. That’s just something that we practiced,” Cromartie said. “We knew it was going to happen if we got down there to the goal line. We practiced it with him, giving him the ball. We got him his touchdown and he pulled us to within three.”
Even in the wake of the disappointing loss, Cromartie couldn’t help grinning at the thought of Richardson doing a fine William “The Refrigerator” Perry imitation. When asked if he would be able to take down a guy Richardson’s size in a similar situation, Cromartie was candidly honest.
“No, man. I don’t ever want to try to tackle a 300-pound person like that,” said Cromartie, who is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds.
Richardson was in no jovial mood after the loss, despite his offensive heroics. He said he knew of Perry and that it “was cool” to be mentioned in the same breath as the former Chicago Bears defensive tackle who occasionally ran the football back in the day. But he admitted that none of that really mattered under Sunday’s circumstances.
“It was a touchdown. But it means nothing. We lost,” Richardson said.