Two weeks ago, a teammate stepped on Trent Richardson's lower right leg in practice. The Browns told reporters that Richardson had a minor muscle strain. Any absence from OTAs and minicamp was expected to be minor.
Today, ESPNCleveland reported that the team is worried that Richardson could develop a stress fracture if he continues to practice on his injured leg. Head coach Rob Chudzinski confirmed after today's workout that Richardson will be held out until the beginning of training camp in August. As usual, the first reports raise more questions than answers.
It's possible that Richardson has a minor muscle strain. However, there's not much muscle tissue on the front of the lower shin, being stepped on is an unusual mechanism for a strained muscle and muscle strains aren't usually associated with stress fractures. While it's possible Richardson suffered some muscle damage, the stress fracture concern suggests that Richardson has a bone bruise.
A bone bruise does carry a risk of stress fracture if not allowed to heal properly and is more consistent with the mechanism of being stepped on by a teammate. The loose eight week timetable also fits the profile of a bone bruise, an unpredictable injury which may take anywhere from days to months to heal.
Despite the new reports of an extended absence, Richardson's 2013 season is not necessarily in jeopardy. Either condition, whether muscle strain or bone bruise, should heal in time for Richardson to return for training camp -- assuming there aren't further complications like the compartment syndrome Hakeem Nicks had in 2010. The larger worry will be whether Richardson can maintain enough conditioning to avoid any compensatory injuries after returning to his first full speed practices.
If you were already concerned about Richardson's injury history, you'll likely see this latest issue as more evidence that he won't hold up over a full season. But it's notable that Richardson returned quickly and effectively after meniscus surgery late last summer and played through multiple broken ribs during the 2012 season. It's too early to know for certain whether or not Richardson will meet his revised rehab goal and fully participate early in camp, but I think there's a strong chance he'll be ready for opening weekend.