- Jan 22, 2006
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http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/2006/03/23/rand_chiefs_lose_a_rock_in_richardson/Chiefs lose a rock in Richardson
Mar 23, 2006, 3:25:06 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ
Players like fullback Tony Richardson, who spend most of a game sticking a facemask into the chest of a much bigger body, probably end their careers a few inches shorter than when they started. Players like Tony Richardson, who spend more than a decade in the NFL, seldom finish their careers in the places they started.
Yet, it still comes as a bit of a jolt when a high-character franchise fixture ups and leaves after 11 years. If you didn’t notice that free agency came into the NFL in 1993, Richardson’s signing with the Minnesota Vikings must’ve left you in shock.
Before free agency, retiring as a Chief, a Cowboy or a Viking meant keeping that uniform until a coach decided you no longer had enough talent to wear it anymore. Now, if Richardson wants to retire as a Chief, he’ll have to sign one of those ceremonial contracts when his playing days are done, then announce his retirement.
That’s how NFL retirements often are handled these days. I know, it sounds as tacky as a a drive-through wedding in Las Vegas. But it’s just a concession to reality.
Richardson is 34, which means his new two-year, $2.5 million contract probably will be his last in the NFL. Moreover, not many NFL teams use a full-time blocking back. Even the Chiefs reduced Richardson’s role in 2005 after his two straight Pro Bowl seasons.
So given his age, his specialty and his projected role in the Vikings’ offense, it’s hard to fault the decision of the player whom teammates nicknamed “T-Rich.” Who wouldn’t want to make the most of his last big contract?
The Chiefs never would have let Richardson leave if they determined they’d be left with a major void in their offense. The biggest void he leaves will be in their locker room.
Richardson was the kind of player and person the NFL should want signing every autograph, visiting every school and giving every interview. The term “role model” is terribly overused and should be reserved for players like Richardson.
As a Chief, he was totally unselfish. Virtually every championship team has veterans like Richardson, who show the pups how to conduct themselves on and off the field. During his Chiefs career, Richardson earned two college degrees and was constantly involved in worthy causes.
Anybody who spent five minutes around his locker would know he’s a thoughtful, well-spoken and respected presence. And lest we forget, when given a chance he could do more than block.
In 2000, the year before Priest Holmes arrived, Richardson was the Chiefs’ leading rusher with 697 yards on 147 carries — an eye-popping 4.7 yards per carry. He rushed for 156 yards in a victory over the Broncos and finished the season with 58 catches for 468 yards.
Many a player would get a big head after a season like that and go into a pout if another back was brought in to start. Richardson simply went back to being a piano mover while Holmes became the piano player. Richardson’s fierce blocking helped lead the way for Holmes, then Larry Johnson, as both blossomed into Pro Bowl running backs.
On one hand, it’s a shame to see such an unselfish player and highly-respected person leave Arrowhead Stadium. On the other hand, it’s a case of free agency working the way it’s supposed to work.
Anyway, Richardson’s spent a long longer with the Chiefs than the vast majority of NFL players ever spend with the same team. This never would’ve happened if he hadn’t been so dependable for so long.
The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.